Dr. Kenneth W. Borland Jr., BGSU’s newly appointed senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, sat down with Monitor recently for a wide-ranging chat about his philosophy of education and his views on some of the issues facing the University. Borland, who joins BGSU from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, takes the reins on Aug. 15.
Q. Describe for us how you view yourself as an educator.
A. I am and always will be a professor. I understand and appreciate the work of faculty, and I’ve never lost touch with the academic mission that professors implement day in and day out.
My passion is for the academic mission. It’s carried out by the faculty. That’s why I’m here; that’s why I get up every morning. As your provost, my job is not the same as being in the classroom, but by doing this kind of work I can exponentially help the people who are in the classroom—the students first and then the faculty who serve them.
For me, it’s always going to come down to what’s best for our students and their learning opportunities.
There’s a lot to familiarize myself with at BGSU, but I can say that—even with the tremendous financial issues we have to deal with as a University—I will work to ensure that faculty are provided the resources they need to give the best opportunities to students.
I will be giving as much attention as I can possibly give to the whole array of scholarship—from undergraduate and graduate studies to the scholarship of creativity and research.
Since the announcement of my appointment was made, congratulatory messages have been coming in, including invitations to get acquainted with students, faculty and program needs and directions. I look forward to supporting our students and colleagues.
Q. How do you see faculty’s role in undergraduate education?
A. Recognizing that the first priority of our Strategic Plan is to enhance the undergraduate experience, we want to strengthen undergraduate education throughout the University. This is done best through the engagement of all faculty.
Everything we do is interrelated, and the undergraduate mission of BGSU is central. All these things work in a synergistic way and will—with the fullest engagement of the faculty—strengthen undergraduate education and the whole of the University.
Q. How can faculty participate in addressing BGSU’s enrollment challenge?
A. We’ve all heard this so often recently, and it is still true: Enrollment and retention are everyone’s business.
Faculty’s contribution to recruitment and retention cannot be underestimated. One of the things I’ve tried to put into practice is to get prospective students into contact with faculty in their projected field of study. Faculty know their programs’ success stories and the relationships they’ve built with places of future employment and graduate schools. They can convey the value of this institution to our prospective students like no one else can.
In terms of retention, I will support faculty efforts to build engaged relationships with students. The more connected students feel with their faculty, not just as a teacher but as someone with whom they could potentially partner in a service, research or creative endeavor, the better the learning experience will be. Those things make a difference.
Faculty should also have an important voice in the admissions process. What are they telling us we should be looking for in prospective students? They can give the enrollment management team good information and guidance. What program faculty think and have to say about students has to be heard and understood if we’re to achieve outstanding student recruitment and timely graduation results.
Q. How will you seek to engage faculty with our new Strategic Plan?
A. I need to gauge as quickly as possible faculty and staff’s level of understanding of the plan and find ways to enable them to work collaboratively with other sectors of the campus that support the academic mission to implement it. I also need to gather a sense of how individual academic units define their vision for the future in concert with the University plan.
Faculty input into its implementation will be invaluable. They have great ideas, they have wonderful creative abilities and they have a lot of interaction with students.
A strategic plan is, to a great extent, quite dynamic and is intended to be revisited incrementally and periodically. I don’t believe in keeping it on the shelf; I don’t believe you can just check off those parts we achieve. We need to assess our progress, celebrate our accomplishments and continually refine our plan in the contemporary context to ensure it is still viable within our mission.
I also want to connect it as much as we can, even in difficult economic times, to budget planning and resource allocations.
Q. How do you view your relationship with the greater community?
A. My family and I are very much looking forward to living in our new home in Bowling Green and being an active part of the community. I believe that the interface between the community and the university needs as much attention as ever, not just in Bowling Green, but in higher education everywhere today.
I promoted and funded an academic service-learning project at East Stroudsburg last spring that was a collaboration between the university and community service-provider agencies and business members of the local chamber of commerce. While the university-community relationship is being developed and assistance given to meeting the community’s needs, as important to us is the opportunity for students to learn by engaging with the real world.
Q. How would you describe your management style?
A. I like to exercise management by walking around. I look forward to being out and about on campus and talking formally and informally with faculty and students and others who are here to support the academic mission.
I like a lot of dialogue, including with colleagues outside academic affairs, and I like to pull together a variety of perspectives. I try to have a lot of interaction and two-way communication.
It’s very important for decision-making to be transparent and for everyone to have sufficient data available to inform our conversation so that the wisest choices may be made.
In working with academic and enrollment-management administrators outside of the faculty, I like to delegate authority with responsibility so that leaders and faculty are empowered to move their areas forward.
I have a high respect for collegial shared governance—with emphasis on collegiality. I will uphold my end of gathering information and shared perspectives.