Meet the Candidates for BC’s Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs Position

Dayna Verlinsky // The Watchdog

On Monday, Feb. 26, the President’s Office began the process of introducing finalists for the position of Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs by hosting the first of four open forums, one for each finalist.

As a brief overview of the candidate profile sought by the college in filling the position, the college is looking for a candidate with (at minimum) a master’s degree who would be responsible for strategic planning, balancing budgeting concerns with growth opportunities, maximizing student performance and enrollment, maintaining a commitment to DEI initiatives, and ensuring professional development within the faculty.

Dr. Jess Clark, former Vice President of Instruction at Walla Walla Community College and former Vice President for Learning and Student Services at Northland Pioneer College (among other qualifications), had the first opportunity to answer questions about why she was the best candidate for the position and how her past experience would fit the responsibilities necessitated by the position. 

She responded to her first question — an introductory prompt about a candidate’s vision in fostering an inclusive academic environment, aligning curriculum with diverse student backgrounds and balancing schoolwide directives with innovation — by laying out plans to address each point and highlighting examples of those issues at hand in her past experience. She mentioned her involvement in setting up tele-counseling at Northland Pioneer College as an example of her commitment to equity as a foundation and her experience in revising the Early College Program at Northland Pioneer College as an example of her belief in community-driven programs.

This emphasis on past experience guiding future vision seemed to permeate throughout the rest of her responses, as she repeatedly stressed the importance of “walking the walk” in her administrative duties. When asked about her responsibility as provost in managing educational priorities within the constraints of a budget, she pointed to her past experience at Walla Walla Community College in diverting resources away from the Energy Systems Technology program and having conversations with faculty members about the decision.

Maintaining open lines of communication, as referenced in this example, was another key aspect of her vision as provost. She talked about holding frequent meetings and check-ins in order to create a more inclusive environment for faculty and working closely with the BC Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) team to address the implementation of DEI initiatives within academic affairs. 

Ms. Star Rush, former Interim Executive Director and Education Director for the Kirkland Arts Center and former Acting President for Cornish College of the Arts, had her open forum two days after Dr. Clark, and she had the opportunity to answer the same questions about her vision and qualifications.

In response to the introduction prompt, she first asserted that “listening actively is how [she leads]” and that “difference, transparency, curiosity, inclusivity, and equity are what [she values].” She then laid out a framework for addressing the Provost’s responsibilities that emphasized the importance of creating a culture of belonging within the college.

This commitment to inclusion was showcased throughout the rest of her responses, as she was very intentional in her usage of language to describe the challenges faced by different groups across campus. When asked about her responsibility in making sure that underrepresented perspectives are incorporated into the curriculum, she opted for the term “historically excluded” instead of underrepresented to show that the gap in equity is not accidental. Additionally, she challenged the usage of the word “adjunct” when asked about ensuring equitable opportunities for both full-time and adjunct faculty, citing the meaning of the word as unwanted and expressing feelings of anxiety felt by part-time faculty members.

If you are interested in learning more about these candidates or their visions, you can visit this page or watch Dr. Clark’s open forum and Ms. Rush’s open forum.

Dayna Verlinsky // The Watchdog