Home Featured News GRCC chooses four finalists for new Provost

GRCC chooses four finalists for new Provost

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Jacqueline El-Sayed (left), Laurie Fathe (center-left), Brian Knetl (center-right), Michael Vargo (right). Photo courtesy of GRCC Communications Director Dave Murray.

Grand Rapids Community College has selected four educators, including one internal candidate, as finalists for the position of Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs. A public session is scheduled for each candidate. 

Each session is scheduled for 2:15-3:15 p.m. in the auditorium of the Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center. Laurie Fathe is scheduled for July 15, with Jacqueline El-Sayed on July 16. Brian Knetl is set for July 17, and Michael Vargo is planned for July 22.

The provost is the college’s chief academic officer with major responsibilities for strategic planning and guiding all aspects of teaching and learning in support of student success. The provost also is charged with establishing GRCC’s academic vision in pursuit of its mission through the contributions of the deans, associate deans, faculty, staff, and their respective systems of support.

The first of the four finalists is Jacqueline El-Sayed, vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer at Marygrove College in Detroit. According to a press release sent out by GRCC, she has been at Marygrove College since 2014, serving in administrative roles and as a professor of mechanical engineering. She was on the faculty at Kettering University in Flint for 18 years, serving in multiple leadership positions, including director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, associate provost and associate vice president for academic affairs. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University and master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Missouri.

The next finalist is Laurie Fathe, a laser physicist who served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington. According to the press release, 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, government and private foundation grants, and has given faculty professional development workshops at colleges and universities. She earned a bachelor’s in physics at Miami University, a master’s in solid state physics from the University of Illinois, and master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering and quantum electronics from the University of Southern California.

Next up is Brian Knetl, interim provost at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. According to the press release, Knetl served as Harper College’s associate provost for Academic Affairs, dean of Liberal Arts and founding associate dean of the Center for Adjunct Faculty Engagement before being named interim provost. He also served as Assistant Dean and Director of Academic Arts at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Illinois. Knetl has a bachelor’s in theater from Saint Mary’s; a master’s in theater from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas; and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University-Chicago. He completed the Aspen Presidential Fellowship Program for Community College Excellence in 2019.

The last finalist is Michael Vargo, Dean of GRCC’s School of Arts and Sciences, making him the only in-house candidate for the position. According to the press release, Vargo has been GRCC’s Sean of the School of Arts and Sciences since January 2015. He previously served consecutively as the school’s associate dean of Operations and associate dean of Evaluation and Hiring. He joined GRCC as a full-time faculty member in the Psychology Department in 2004. Prior to that, he was in the psychology department at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. He spent 11 years in academic administration and has 10 years of experience as a faculty member serving undergraduate and graduate populations, including six years as a full-time community college classroom faculty member. Vargo earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Grand Valley State University, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. A clinical psychologist, he has worked in a variety of educational and clinical settings in the United States, Canada and other countries. 

The new provost will replace Laurie Chesley, Vargo’s predecessor as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, who became president of Central Oregon Community College in Bend, Oregon.

GRCC Communications Director Dave Murray commented on the search for the new Provost and how students can get involved.

“The search has gone well, with four outstanding finalists coming to campus during the next two weeks to meet with faculty, staff and students,” Murray said. “The public sessions are an excellent opportunity for GRCC students to hear directly from the finalists and ask questions.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 6:43 p.m. July 11, 2019 to include comments from GRCC Communications Director Dave Murray.

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