Our View: from provost to president

Truman State celebrated the announcement of a new interim president Saturday. The Board of Governors announced Susan Thomas will act as interim University president when current University President Troy Paino leaves this July. Thomas currently serves as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost for the University and was appointed to that position in 2015.

While the Index Editorial Board congratulates our incoming interim president, we also ask the Board of Governors to consider the appointment of all faculty positions with the same scrutiny and high expectations they demand when searching for a University president.

Upward mobility is prevalent in the faculty here at Truman, which adds to the overall diversity of backgrounds among our leaders. Several of Truman’s past presidents have served in other roles at the University. Paino was the provost at Truman for two years before being named University president in 2010. Richard J. Coughlin acted as dean of libraries and museums before his appointment to interim provost from 2010-12. Now Coughlin will serve as interim executive vice president for Academic Affairs and provost when Thomas moves from those positions to interim president.

The search for a University president can take months or sometimes even years. Whoever fills the position must have a background in educational leadership, long-term planning skills, be business savvy and have the ability to relate to students.

While the presidential seat at any University comes with high expectations and requirements, we should not forget to apply those same high standards to other campus positions. Interim presidents have the same power as the presidents they temporarily replace. Selecting a provost also is not a decision that should be made lightly. The provost plays a role that directly affects the current well-being of our University and the future of our campus. And because there is such a great opportunity for upward mobility at Truman, every faculty position, no matter how small it seems, should be filled by someone who shows promise for a position higher up in the school.

Some skills the Board of Governors looks for in a president don’t necessarily come naturally. Opportunities for educational leadership take time to come by and require a strong initiative to see a goal through to completion. Opportunities such as these can open up at the professor level. Several professors have taken the initiative to lead study abroad programs, taken a position on faculty senate, and suggested changes to University policies that ultimately were accepted and put into Truman’s mission statement.

No matter their position, the faculty at Truman should not just focus on the classroom when considering the well-being of the University. Faculty should be proactive about making the academic environment on campus a fuller educational experience for everyone involved.

We call ourselves the “Harvard of the Midwest,” but not simply because Truman students are academically exceptional. The faculty at Truman pushes students to become critical thinkers and to excel as students and citizens outside of the classroom.

There is a saying that there are no small parts, only small actors. The same applies to our campus. There are no small positions, only small ambitions. Every faculty member at Truman has the opportunity to change our community. Whether faculty members push themselves to make that change is up to them. But we should aim to hire faculty members who will take that initiative and keep in mind they might have a chance to make an even bigger difference in a larger role down the road.

Those who are a part of the search for a university president are looking for someone with experience and dedication to the success of the University. We hope the Board of Governors is also looking for that same quality when appointing a provost, dean or any member of Truman’s faculty. It is critical to hire someone with passion for Truman, because you never know what role they could play in our campus’ future.