Acting Provost Suzanne Sherman became the official Provost on Friday, October 2, per an email announcement by President Donal O’Shea. Sherman served as acting provost for over a month after Barbara Feldman resigned on September 1. As provost, Sherman will focus on increasing academic programs and career-planning support, supporting students and showcasing academics in admissions. Sherman expressed that she is looking forward to working with faculty and students and hopes to receive feedback on any improvements that can be made.
“We are in the process of surveying faculty about their experiences this semester, considering that many classes are being delivered either entirely or partially through distance learning,” Sherman wrote in an email interview. “We hope to survey the students, as well. We will be using the data we collect to help us plan for the spring.”
Academics at universities across the country have drastically changed as a result of COVID-19, and New College is no different. Online classes and remote learning make it harder for students and professors to connect and maintain relationships—two important aspects of academics at New College. Sherman pointed to data from mid-semester progress reports that suggested safe in-person classes might benefit students.
“Even though the spring semester is expected to be similar to the fall with respect to COVID, I want to encourage more in-person learning experiences for students,” Sherman explained. “Data from our mid-semester progress reports indicate that it has been harder to engage students this semester than in prior semesters. More in-person experiences may improve student learning, as well as mental health.”
By expanding New College’s academic programs and career-planning support, Sherman will continue to link “our liberal arts program with the world of work.”
“Last year we introduced some new academic programs (AOCs, joint-disciplinary, secondary fields, and certificates), and we expect to add more this year,” Sherman said.
Sherman recognizes the difficulties COVID-19 has created for students and will work with the office of student success and advocacy to increase academic support. She noted that one “institutional priority” this year is “customer service.” Sherman would “love” to hear student feedback for their experiences during fall semester.
In admissions, Sherman aspires to make academics a larger focus when interacting with prospective students. While New College is not well known nationally, it has unique academics characterized by narrative evaluations and students’ close relationships with professors. New College is distinct from other universities, and Sherman said she believes academics should be a focus in admissions.
“We have wonderful faculty and students, and showcasing them should help us increase enrollment,” Sherman said.
With previous experience as associate provost, Sherman brings knowledge and dedication to her new role. Most importantly, Sherman wants to work for and with students to better their academic experiences. Sherman often holds office hours on Thursday afternoons where students can speak with her directly. The office hours are announced the day of via email. With a new Provost, New Collegewill have a fresh outlook on academics.
“Most of all I am excited about collaborating with others to make improvements to New College and achieve the goals laid out in our strategic plan,” Sherman said.