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The Michigan Daily sat down with Provost Laurie McCauley for her first formal interview since taking office in May 2022. McCauley will serve until June 2023 or the next permanent Provost is appointed. She discussed her priorities as provost, the presidential transition, anti-racism initiatives and more.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Michigan Daily: What do you hope to accomplish in your time as Provost?
Laurie McCauley: There is no shortage of things to accomplish. We have set out some focused initiatives, and from a broad stand point, I want to help facilitators achieve success. From admissions to assuring that the curriculum is up-to-date and current it’s important to assure we have adequate faculty to deliver the academic mission all the way through to graduation. And also, along those lines, ensuring that our academic programs are affordable. That is something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about: how can we best mount really high-caliber programs that are also affordable?
TMD: Could you take us through a general day in your life as provost? What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
LM: I get up in the morning about 4:30 a.m. and I usually spend the first hour of my day catching up on emails that arrive overnight. This morning specifically, I lifted weights for an hour, I showered, ate breakfast and I walked to work. Then I started work and had meetings for most of the day. Today, we had a delegation here from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine which is very cool, so we met the President of the National University. The National University of Kyiv is 400 years old so that was interesting. Then I had a meeting with the Vice Provost for Engaged Learning and then I had a provost budget team meeting. Around 6:30 p.m. I’ll do some emails, walk home, and make a phone call on my way home. I don’t have an evening event tonight so I’ll have dinner with my husband.
TMD: Throughout your tenure so far, what would you say is your proudest accomplishment?
LM: One of the things that I found rewarding was developing a mission and vision statement for the office of the provost. It really just pulled from everyone working in the Provost’s Office and I was just really impressed with the caliber of ideas and discussion that came forward through that process. It energized me to really embrace the position.
TMD: Since your office works closely with the President’s office, how has the presidential transition been?
LM: Santa Ono’s as good as he sounds. He is incredibly bright, engaging and really genuine. It is really impressive how much he cares about students and how much he cares about the community around him. And he has a really high emotional IQ and really connects well with people. He has been able to connect with the students so well on campus.
LM: The former provost tasked a student success initiative that we are carrying on in partnership with the Office of Student Life. I just embraced that as something that I thought would not only benefit our institution, but we also built on a strength of our campus: research. The initiative is built on data that identifies paths for students to be successful. From this data we can understand and do an even better job of individualizing or personalizing our educational approaches.
TMD: How are you currently involved in organizations that are helping to improve mental health on campus?
LM: The University signed on to the Okanagan charter last year — a charter that says we will be a health-promoting campus and that we will infuse health throughout all of our operations. In my mind, students should come to this campus and know that it is the healthiest campus in the United States. We should be that campus. You will get great education and you will have fabulous faculty who are really knowledgeable, and a lot of educational opportunities. But you will also have an opportunity to set healthy habits for the rest of your life. College is a really critical time in your life to establish those habits.
TMD: Can you tell us a little about how you have approached the Anti-Racism Hiring Initiative that Provost Collins had launched in October 2020?
LM: When you mount a hiring initiative like that it really gives visibility to something that we as an institution believe strongly in. It makes a very strong statement in that regard. We really value being able to study this area, to educate our students in this area, to do research in this area — all with the goal of improving our campus and to impact the world.
TMD: Are there any new projects that you’ve envisioned for the coming year, specifically for your office, the Provost Office, that you would like to share with The Daily’s readers?
LM: We are continuously increasing the robustness of the student success initiative database to see what solutions we can actually implement. We’ll continue to educate and identify new information, but we are looking into what you can actually implement in partnership with schools and colleges. And then how can we implement them? How can we support them to be effective, to increase the success of our students in their academic pursuits?
TMD: Finally, with Thanksgiving approaching, we were wondering what your favorite Thanksgiving food is?
LM: I would have to reflect back on my mother who is no longer with us. She used to make a cranberry relish that was just fabulous.
Correction 11/16: The Anti-Racism Hiring Initiative was launched by former University Provost Susan Collins in October 2020.
Daily News Editor Roni Kane contributed reporting.