By Jacquelyn Zeman – Chief Web Editor
As the second week of the semester begins, Grand Rapids Community College’s former dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Laurie Chesley, is settling into her new position as provost.
Chesley follows Gilda Gely as provost. Gely left GRCC during the winter 2014 semester to become the provost at Aquinas College.
As a Grand Rapids native, Chesley’s education credits include a bachelor’s degree in English and French from Alma College, and a masters and doctorate degree in English from the University of Notre Dame.
“I have been going to school all my life…I loved my education, I loved learning, going to class…and the experience of being in school, particularly higher education,” Chesley said. “I could not imagine where else I would be…I did not leave teaching because I didn’t like it, I left it because as odd as it sounds, I liked this kind of (administrative) work better.”
Following her education, she taught and worked as an administrator for Montgomery County Community College, Ferris State University, Northwestern Michigan College, Grand Valley State University, Alma College and Davenport University. Chesley described her time spent working in rural Philadelphia at Montgomery County Community College as reminding her that her roots were in the Midwest.
“Until I went somewhere really different and notable, further away, I found that I did not want to be there,” Chesley said. “I wanted to go back (to Grand Rapids).”
Chesley had been taking on more and more responsibility in administration, and when an associate dean position opened at GRCC, she applied for the position. From that position she moved on to become the dean of arts and sciences. Chesley has now been at GRCC for 10 years.
Chesley was one of three finalists selected for the provost position this fall, and was GRCC’s only internal candidate. The provost serves as the executive vice president for academic and student affairs, and reports directly to the president.
“The provost has ultimate oversight of the division of academic and student affairs,” Chesley said. “In that large division of academics and student affairs, you have a number of small units…the provost is responsible for the core enterprise of the institution, which is offering students courses, classes, credentials, and degrees, and making sure they have the support that they (need) in place.”
Chesley said her long-term goals include helping students find their academic path early on in their time at GRCC. In order to do this, she would like to have all students see a regular academic adviser.
“To work with my colleagues to improve the personal connections we make with students throughout their time here,” Chesley said. “One key way of doing that is strengthening our advising…I would like to see us do more to reach out to students. I think higher ed is very confusing…We are a complex world…I would like to help us as a college to make the experience more friendly. It has to be in making clear pathways for students to their goals.”