Former dean assumes acting provost position

Cheryl Stevens, former dean of Ogden College, was appointed to the position of acting provost following former Provost Terry Ballman’s resignation on April 5.

Emily DeLetter

Cheryl Stevens had about five minutes to accept or decline the position to become acting provost at WKU.

Stevens was in New Orleans for the weekend for her son’s baby shower when former Provost Terry Ballman resigned on April 5. Following a vote of no confidence passed by the University Senate.

Friday morning, President Timothy Caboni called Stevens and asked if she would be able to take over the position.

“Everything happened so fast,” Stevens said. “I was honored when he asked, grateful for the opportunity and excited, but, man, it’s a fire hose a lot of times when you move into a provost position.”

In a statement to the Herald, Caboni said Stevens was an obvious choice to serve as acting provost.

“As our longest serving academic dean, and as [a] member of the strategic planning steering committee, she will bring stability and continuity to the ongoing work in Academic Affairs, DELO and our five colleges,” Caboni said.

Stevens will hold the acting provost position for at least the next two years. Unlike an interim position, she is not absolutely slated to be replaced permanently by someone after a national search, although it could be a possibility.

“Traditionally, in a lot of people’s minds, acting means you’re in a position that belongs to someone else, but they can’t do it right now,” Stevens said. “That’s not what Caboni understood the title to be.”

As acting provost, she will be the chief academic officer, responsible for the quality of WKU’s academic programs. She said one major difference between being dean of Ogden College and acting provost is transitioning her supporting role from only Ogden College, a position she held since January 2012, to supporting all five colleges.

She said she has amazing support from the faculty and staff on campus, including dozens of emails from people expressing interest in serving as her advisers on the provost’s council.

Describing herself as a team player and team builder, Stevens said she works

best having people to talk to who can help move things forward.

“I’ve found that if you choose people who come to you wanting to help, they seem to almost always do a better job,” Stevens said.

She took over at the end of the Comprehensive Academic Program Evaluation process, which began under Ballman. CAPE recommendations were approved by the Board of Regents Academic Affairs Committee during its Friday meeting.

Through CAPE, the committee identified 209 programs to maintain as they currently are, 55 programs to transform, 15 programs to grow and 101 programs to suspend.

The suspended programs include 11 undergraduate degrees, four graduate degrees and 86 other credentials such as minors and certificates. During the meeting, Stevens said she hopes the programs recommended to be grown and enhanced and transformed will be attractive to students.

Faculty in programs that will be suspended will continue to teach out the classes over the next few years to ensure students currently enrolled in the suspended programs can complete their requirements.

Stevens began her career in academia at Xavier University of Louisiana, where she began as a faculty member in the chemistry department. She eventually moved up to become a program director, then department chair of chemistry and eventually an associate dean for research.

But Stevens said she wanted more and was immediately drawn to the then-open position for the dean of Ogden College of Science and Engineering at WKU. Upon visiting campus for her interview, she fell in love with the area and the much smaller community of Bowling Green as well as the differences between her small liberal arts college and WKU’s larger, regional public university.

“I liked the mission of WKU, it really resonated for me,” Stevens said. “Here, it’s about access and an opportunity for students who may not be able to go somewhere else. You’re able to make a connection between the campus and university and the region around it.”

Stevens was hired for the dean position and began during the Spring 2012 semester under former President Gary Ransdell. As of the Fall 2018 semester, she and Larry Snyder, dean of Potter College of Arts and Letters, were the only remaining deans from Ransdell’s administration.

When she found herself in the position of acting provost, Stevens said it “made complete sense” to rehire Snyder as dean of Potter College.
Before she rehired Snyder, Potter College would have had an interim dean, and Ogden College would as well.

Gordon Ford College of Business and the College of Health and Human Services have just hired new deans after two national searches. Corinne Murphy, dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, is still fairly new to WKU, having started her position in August. Susann DeVries, dean of University Libraries, began her position a little under two years ago.
“The dean team is very unsettled,”

Stevens said. “It seemed to me that it was not a good situation. Larry [Snyder] brings a high ethical standard and a sense of stability. He is clearly well-loved on campus and was taken out of position when he had a lot of balls up in the air. Putting him back and allowing him to do that work with Potter College until he steps out in two years was a good thing for everyone.”

Snyder has agreed to remain as Potter College dean for the next two years, a decision Stevens said he made when he was rehired.

“Snyder was happy, because he wasn’t ready to go out,” Stevens said. “Relieved, I think, and grateful. But he wants to do two years and then do something else.”

Assistant News Editor Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @emilydeletter.