New administrative changes aim to improve communication

Christine Lee, News Editor

With the start of a new year, new faces join the Wilkes administration.

Associate professor of chemistry and department chair Therese Wignot has been named interim provost following the resignation of Reynold Verret. In addition, all academic deans will now serve in the president’s cabinet for the 2012-13 academic year.

Over the summer, Verret announced that he would be leaving Wilkes to join Savannah State University in Georgia as that school’s chief academic officer in August. Following his resignation, Leahy met with the Faculty Affairs Council and appointed an ad hoc committee consisting of three faculty members and three administrators to recommend candidates for an interim provost.

FAC chair Dr. Justin Matus describes Wignot as eager to lead the faculty and understands their perspective.

“She has the right disposition, she’s very collaborative, a good communicator and is willing to listen,” Matus said. “She’ll help with the faculty morale and be a strong voice for the faculty in the president’s cabinet.”

Wignot earned her B.A in biology and Ph. D. in biochemistry from Lehigh University. She has been at Wilkes since 1989 during which she served as department coordinator from 2000-05 and department chair from 2005-11.

Since 2000 she has been the director of Science in Motion, a grant-funded science program that gives Wilkes the opportunity to extend outreach to area schools. During her time at Wilkes she has served on a variety of committees including serving as student athletic representative and FAC.

“She has a very good understanding of the concerns of faculty and she has a desire to help the university fill this very important role,” Executive Assistant to the President Jack Chielli said. “She’s a very approachable individual and very concerned with student success.”

Wignot said her initial reaction upon hearing she would be considered for the position was “complete shock” but felt honored and flattered that her colleagues on the committee felt it was something she would be appropriate for.

“I was really and sincerely shocked initially but then when I met with Dr. Leahy and talked to him about what his goals for moving the university forward and what part I can play in that I actually got excited about it,” Wignot said. “And then was again somewhat shocked but thrilled when he asked me to serve in this position.”

Wignot said she wants to help bring all the constituents back together to become a community again to discuss issues and ways to move forward as a community.

“I really want to help to bring all the constituents, faculty, students, staff, administration, I really want to play a part in pulling us all back together to become a community again where we’re all talking to one another, listening to one another on what the issues are and how we can all move forward together as a community,” Wignot said.

Wignot said she has always had an open-door policy as a faculty member for students, even as chemistry department chair and hopes to have this same policy as Interim Provost.

“I think students felt comfortable coming to see me,” Wignot said. “I always tried to listen and then come up with a solution that took into account the student, faculty and administrative issues and I hope to do the same thing here.”

Wignot hopes to be more visible on campus after she gets adjusted to her new role by walking around campus buildings and talk to different faculty members and student groups to hear what people on campus are thinking.

There is a search committee being formed to look for a permanent provost, which is being chaired by Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Paul Adams. Adams said members of the search committee are being identified.

Dr. Ted Marchese of search consulting firm AGB Consulting has been identified as the search consultant. Marchese previously served as the search consultant on the last Provost search.

Adams said the search process would resemble the search for President in terms of soliciting thoughts about the position for the candidates. Dr. Marchese and the search committee will come to campus to get a feel for the campus and solicit feedback about the search for provost.

“One of the first things (the search committee) will be doing is helping Dr. Marchese write a perspectus, which is a multi-page description of the University which is intended to set the stage and familiarize any candidate with the state of affairs at Wilkes University so they can make a good judgment about whether or not there is a good fit for Wilkes,” Adams said.

Adams said there is no search for recently departed Associate Provost Dr. Vernon Harper and Director of Undergraduate Education Dr. Ellen Gregorie as he said it should be up to the Provost him or herself to choose his or her staff.

In addition to the new interim provost, all the academic deans will now serve as official members of the president’s cabinet for this year. This includes the deans of all the colleges and Library Dean John Stachacz.

Chielli said having all the academic deans in the Cabinet is a reflection of Leahy’s desire to be more transparent, to build trust and get more input from the faculty.

“During this interim period where we don’t have a permanent provost, having additional academic voices can only help us get input from the faculty,” Chielli said.