Monday marked the first of four public sessions for the candidates applying for the position of Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at Grand Rapids Community College.
This first session belonged to Laurie Fathe, a laser physicist who served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington.
According to her bio, Fathe focuses on science education, science policy, professional development for faculty and administrators, and institutional reform. She is the author of numerous educational and scientific publications, and has written several government and private foundation grants.
She began her presentation by stating why she is a strong candidate. She stopped short of calling herself the best candidate noting she said she has not met the other candidates and,“I might not be the best candidate.”
Previously, she served as Dean of Arts and Sciences at Owens Community College, as Associate Provost at George Mason University, and on the physics faculty at Occidental College for a decade.
In the late 1990s, Fathe directed the Los Angeles Collaborative for Teacher Education, a National Science Foundation funded, 10-institution, $5.5 million project in STEM preparation for teachers. A fellow of the American Physical Society, she was its Congressional Science Fellow for 1993, serving as science advisor for Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of Silicon Valley. In addition, she has served on two National Academy of Science Boards.
Fathe then touched on how the focus should always be on the students and giving them the best education possible and discussed how she would accomplish that.
She said professors should “stop using yourself as a metric for your students, because they’re not you.” She also emphasized that students learn in different ways and at different paces and how the faculty need to account for this.
Fathe expanded on this idea by stating that as a whole we have to understand, “Students change at a breathtaking pace… Society changes, students change, we need change… What might’ve worked in the past might not work now.”
Her concern about students expanded beyond the classroom as well.
“Context matters, students matter…” she said. “You have to deal with who they are and what they’ve gone thru when they come to you.”
She explained how when she was at Heritage University they had the Heritage University Compassionate Leave Policy that allowed professors to let students miss class for serious reasons and make up the coursework on a flexible schedule. This policy was started by faculty because they had a large amount of Yakama Native Americans at their college, and in that tribe’s culture when people died, students missed a week of classes to be with their families.o they came up with this policy because it wasn’t fair to these students to fall behind because of cultural differences.
If selected as GRCC’s next provost, Fathe explained how she would provide support for the faculty by having things like, “An effective and confidential mechanism for employees to make suggestions and point out inequities…”
She ended her presentation with a slide that read: “We live in a time when hate is on the rise, when difference is attacked, and divisions are exacerbated. Education is one of the strongest defenses to misinformation, division, and hate. We, through our lives, our example, and through educating the next generation, can change the world. It is imperative we do so.”
She said she wasn’t going to include this slide, but decided to after President Donald Trump’s posted racist remarks on Twitter telling Democractic congresswomen to “go back” to their countries.
After her presentation, those at Monday’s forum got an opportunity to ask Fathe a few questions.
When The Collegiate asked Fathe the number one thing she wants students to know about her as a person, and she responded saying, “That I’m passionate about helping them succeed and become who they want to be.”
Fathe then told The Collegiate what she thought was the biggest problem facing college students.
“I don’t think there’s a single thing” she said. “Certainly for students in community college, changes in the working world.The fact that jobs are being given over to automation. There was a new report that came out last week that predicted in certain fields a quarter of the jobs will be gone in the next decade. So helping students understand we want to educate you for a job that’s going to be there for more than the next five years and that that’s going to keep changing, that you can’t learn something and say, ‘I’m set for life,’ you got to be a lifelong learner today.”
When asked her thoughts on how to keep students safe in this era of increased mass shootings and increased shootings specifically in Grand Rapids, Fathe said, “So, I think part of that goes to creating an atmosphere of respect on campus. I think students who feel respected, empowered, and heard are not the ones going around shooting. So part of it is creating an environment that helps that. It’s also having support services on campus so when a student is troubled there’s somewhere they can go or there’s somewhere we can say, ‘hey, we can help.’”
The next session, featuring provost candidate Jacqueline El-Sayed, will be Tuesday, July 16 at 2:15 p.m. at the Applied Technology Center at GRCC in the auditorium, room 168.