By Ruth Kehinde– Digital Editor
It’s been two months since Professor of Business Eric Turner was named the new Provost of Lasell. As students begin the fall semester, questions about what to expect in unfamiliar times may arise. Here are eight questions our digital editor Ruth Kehinde asked the Provost about how Lasell will look down the road.
Q: What are the responsibilities and expectations of your new position?
A: The responsibilities and expectations of the Provost are to achieve academic altar of the university. That entails, in Lasell’s organization, managing the Academic and Student Affairs organizations. It includes supporting students, faculty and staff, student services and Residential Life…all of this support is to benefit the student experience. I hope for the student experience to be very much the same as … in the non-pandemic times. The reason that we put Academic Affairs and Student Affairs together, organizationally, is to try to make sure that the curricular and the co-curricular are merged as much as possible. Students learn not only in the
classroom, but they learn in so many ways outside of the classroom during their academic experience. It’s important for us to look at the students and the student experience as a whole and to make both of them as rich as possible…Lasell’s Connected Learning Philosophy is a big part of the community, classroom, curricular and co-curricular activities. Internships and our Career Development Center integrate more of how career activities are a big part of this … Part of my role as Provost is to teach. I think once I get my feet under me and get through the transition, I will do some form of teaching in my role as a professor, whether that [be] to teach or co-teach.
Q: What are some benefits of being the new Provost, and how are you going to use those benefits to enhance the academic priorities for students, especially within a pandemic?
A: In really successful organizations, new ideas don’t take long to get considered, evaluated and tried and we’ve been really good about that. In the recent history of Lasell, 20-30 years, that’s how ideas such as going co-ed, going four-year, starting a grad program, starting Lasell Village: those are all ideas that got considered very quickly… We’ve done a pretty good job of that at Lasell over the years and I would like to continue that. The best thing about a good idea that may not get implemented is that it leads to some version of that idea still happening.
Q: Being at Lasell for the last three years, what route do you see us headed down in the near-future, socially and academically?
A: Academically, I think it goes back to some of what I described before, of seeing more integration of Career Services and career-oriented ideas and activities in the curriculum itself. I think that’s going to be a big part of our continued evolution of connected learning philosophy. Socially, one of the things I’ve talked to the faculty about is that we have Connected Learning. I want us to focus a lot more on what I call: ‘learned connecting.’ By that, I mean…we have to spend a lot more time understanding … each other such as, what others on our campus do and what we’re about and like… That’s every- thing from faculty and staff understanding their specific roles and responsibilities… make sure that students aren’t isolated… make sure students don’t confine them- selves to knowing people just in their house, or dorm, or in their majors…make sure that we get a lot more integration of students in terms of their perspective, and their ideas, and their interactions. I think there’s a lot of ways that we can spend time learning and knowing more about each other.
Q: With what’s happening in the world today; specifically, protests revolving around issues of racial justice, what are things you think Lasell can do to support and help students impacted by this issue?
A: Part of Lasell’s mission is social responsibility and making sure that we as a community are supporting individuals in this pursuit. Part of our culture is that we care about all members of our community, especially our students – … This is part of our institutional DNA. I think there are a number of things that Lasell has done and can do.
Q: What do you hope to learn from this job?
A: Like our students and faculty, I consider myself a life-long learner, and so I expect to learn so much from this position … I expect to learn more from our students because what they are doing and what they aspire to is changing and evolving day-to-day. I expect to learn from our faculty. They’re doing wonderful research, fabulous teaching and there’s so much of teaching that’s a two-way street. Our faculty is learning every day that they’re teaching because… students are providing new, different and rich experiences … I love being part of this mixture of this pool of academics. I can’t tell you what I expect to learn. I have high expectations for learning a lot about what we’re doing and obviously contributing what I can and what I have in my background and experiences to that pool of general knowledge. In every job that I ever had, I was able to surprise myself… I’m certainly getting to know more about the disciplines I don’t spend a lot of time with. So there will always be surprises in a position like this. It’s the nature of the beast … The fact that it’s full of surprises is no surprise to me.
Q: What are your major goals for the foreseeable future? Planning any bigger changes?
A: I don’t have any major changes planned. At this point, my number one goal is to listen. I think that we have some very smart, accomplished and experienced people in our faculty and staff. They know more about what they do more than I do. A big part of this job is listening [to] and understanding the things they have to say. It’s up to me to help to develop an environment that allows what they’re saying, recommending and deciding to be put all together for the benefit of Lasell… I certainly also want us to continue to evolve what we’re doing in connecting learning. That’s who we are. It’s the main reason most of us are here… to have connected learning, be fresh, and productive for our students … We have had suggestions on living and learning communities at Lasell, and that’s something we have to look at … I don’t know what type of specific things we can do, but with their suggestions, I’ll like to investigate over time. We have to continue to grow and have to help everyone in every corner. To help people within minority groups, increase their participation and their involvement … The Lasell Works program is doing well…I would like to have that continue to grow and continue to support that. We have a number of partnerships with external entities… We want to continue looking into that with a number of other partnerships with businesses and entities doing a number of things … Academic partnerships that’ll generate internship opportunities for our students…to teach and provide for students…there’s different types of partnerships that I would like to continue and grow.
Q: Starting a new position can be exciting but sometimes, a bit nerve-racking. Do you have any concerns going into this new position?
A: I don’t think I have any concerns. We have a great leadership team. Our five school deans are all accomplished academics and good leaders for the school, and they’re experienced. We have two associate deans of Curricular Integration, Professor Dennis Frey and Professor Michelle Niestepski are again, very accomplished in … not only in their academic areas but in what they do. David Hennessey, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs, has been a Student Affairs professional for over 20 years, so he knows that area very well … We have a dynamite faculty. My challenge is to make sure that their voices get heard. They have knowledge and background experience. There’s going to be some fabulous ideas that they’ll generate. I want to make sure we’re in a position where we can organize appropriately to act on those ideas for the benefit of the students and institution.
Q: Why do you want to be Lasell’s Provost? How will you continue to lead us through this pandemic?
A: My main reasons for doing this are, I’ve been involved with Lasell for almost 30 years, and it’s a place that I love and I’m passionate about. I spent time as a trustee, as an overseer and I’ve been involved at Lasell Village as a trustee. For me, it’s an institution that I believe very strongly in. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been associated with it for this long, and I certainly wouldn’t have come to work here three-and-a-half years ago. The idea for me is that I can be helpful, and I can serve the institution further and bring whatever background and experience that can be helpful. Those are the reasons why I’m doing this. I think that I can be helpful to what we do and what we do is that we educate students and we educate all along the life curve so the idea of life-long learning is real… I want us to continue to do that and do that effectively.