Interim provost envisions no slowing down in coming year of transition

September 10, 2010 | Features, UToday
By Jon Strunk



With his feet wet after more than three months on the job as interim provost, Dr. William McMillen said he’s learned the most from his interactions with those around him.

He emphasized the need to continue those conversations over the course of the next academic year and said that the interim title won’t result in a delay of the implementation of key University initiatives.

“I’ve met many faculty, staff and students in the four years since the merger, but there are still many I want to reach,” said McMillen, who also serves as vice president for government relations and chief of staff.

“The week before school started, I met with faculty members at orientation and I was very impressed. It just reminded me that I have a lot to learn, and I’ll only do that by speaking with and learning from those around me.”

“With the speed of change from forces inside and outside of the University, we just don’t have that luxury,” he said. “Coming to this position from a government relations job, I’m very much aware of what elected leaders at the federal, state and local levels are expecting of institutions of higher education, and really we have the choice of meeting and exceeding those expectations or being left behind.”

McMillen, who earned his PhD in English from Ohio University in 1976, said his time during the last four years working with the Ohio Board of Regents and Ohio’s Chancellor for Higher Education Eric Fingerhut have been particularly valuable as he looks at future trends in the way UT educates its students.

“It’s certainly true that an institution’s government relations person is not the traditional choice to serve as provost, but I’ve worked in public universities all my life,” McMillen said. Before joining the staff of the former Medical College of Ohio in 1982, McMillen served as a faculty member and administrator at Bowling Green State University.

This summer Johns Hopkins University Press published his book, From Campus to Capitol: The Influence of Government Relations on Higher Education, which is focused on how to build successful relationships between universities and government. His novel, Sticks, was published in 2001.

“So much of what affects UT and universities generally depends on the work of legislators and elected officials. For a long time, I think universities and elected leaders used each other more as foils than as partners. In the last four years, the state of Ohio has been incredibly supportive of higher education, and an ability to see some of those connections between the state legislature, the Board of Regents and universities is tremendously valuable.”

International student recruitment is an area that needs additional focus, McMillen said, adding his support to a proposal to transform the first floor of Snyder Memorial into a center focused on international students and their unique needs. This is in addition to a list of priorities presented to UT’s Board of Trustees that includes:

• Searches for a new provost and several deanships;

• Preparation for UT’s 2012 accreditation site visit from the Higher Learning Commission;

• Recruitment and retention;

• Addressing faculty workload issues; and

• Enhancing graduate and undergraduate curriculum to match educational delivery with technological advances.

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