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Scherr to Continue as Provost, Lead Reaccreditation

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President Jim Yong Kim has announced that Barry Scherr will remain at his post as provost up to June 2011.

Scherr, who is also the Mandel Family Professor of Russian, has been a member of the Dartmouth faculty since 1974 and has served as provost since 2001. Prior to this announcement, Scherr had planned a sabbatical in the coming months to focus on his scholarly research.

scherr

A scholar of Russian literature, Provost Barry Scherr has a longtime personal interest in the arts. The paintings in the background are by his late father-in-law, Max Egelman. Click here to listen to a podcast with Scherr. (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

President Kim says, "I am grateful that he will be here as a key guide and adviser on the many issues before us."

Kim notes that Scherr's continued leadership will be especially valuable during Dartmouth's reaccreditation process with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), which will occur in fall 2010. He has also asked Scherr to lead a study comparing the role of the Provost's Office at Dartmouth with the role of the office at other institutions.

Scherr spoke with Vox of Dartmouth in July about the reaccreditation process, his work as provost, and his scholarship.

"This will be an exciting time on campus. I'm very happy to continue as provost during the first years of President Kim's administration. There is more work to be done during the presidential transition, providing continuity, as well as for the reaccreditation process with NEASC, which I have been leading."

"Reaccreditation is a process that every institution that gives a degree has to go through. There's no doubt that Dartmouth offers high-quality programs. That's not really the issue. What the reaccreditation committee does is make sure that every school has made the effort to look at all aspects of the institution and is meeting certain standards fully."

"The preparation for reaccreditation forces institutions to look at themselves carefully. It really is important, and it does work. Preparing our self-study for the NEASC committee gives Dartmouth the opportunity to check on what we have been doing and to find areas where we want to improve."

"In the decade since our last reaccreditation the emphasis on assessment has grown. The NEASC is looking for a clear indication of how our assessment measures feed back into the decisions that are made. They are very specific. They want you to gather the data, write a self-study report, and present the data in appendices. So the actual 100-page report is only a fraction of what needs to be prepared. About 40 people are serving on the various committees that will work on various sections of the self-study, and they in turn will be gathering information from dozens of others on campus. The committees' work is already under way. Beginning early in 2010 we'll be updating the campus about what we're doing and will put the self-study online."

"When I became provost, there was no central place on campus for faculty to go with questions about their teaching. I was involved in creating the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) because I thought it would be a good idea to have a single entity to which faculty could turn and that would also provide information about the resources that were already in place. Those of us on the committee that proposed DCAL also believed conversation among faculty from different departments about our mutual interests in teaching wasn't taking place as often as it should. Now, DCAL is a place that encourages that kind of conversation, and provides expertise on teaching and technology that faculty might not have access to otherwise."

"Overseeing the Hopkins Center and Hood Museum of Art, I've tried to help improve on their success. The increased level of collaboration has been particularly strong. When the dance company Pilobolus was here for a residency in 2007, in part sponsored by the Montgomery Fellows program, another area that I oversee, a number of different areas of the campus were involved. The library displayed items chronicling the group's work [Rauner Special Collections Library now holds the Pilobolus archives], the Hood put on an exhibition, and the Hop hosted a performance and arranged for master classes and well as class visits."

"The Visual Arts Center will expand the importance of what's going on with the arts at Dartmouth. In providing at long last adequate space for both studio art and film and media studies, the VAC will also free up space for both the Hop and the Hood. For people coming onto the campus, it will create the sense that the area—with the Hop, the Hood, and the VAC—is a real arts district."

"Having gone through budget reductions in 2002-03, we learned two major lessons we applied this year. One was that we communicated earlier and more often. We didn't want this to be a surprise. We wanted to make the process as open as we could and get feedback from as many people as we could. The other thing we learned was to get to this early. As soon as we saw problems developing we started holding the open meetings, started working with the departments, thinking about what we would do."

"Dealing with budget reductions is always a difficult process. I can't say that it was a pleasant part of the job, but certainly it was an important one. We've left Dartmouth well positioned to build on its foundation."

"I've had several scholarly interests over the years, and I've continued to write articles during my time as provost. My first love is Russian prose from the first third of the 20th century. It is an exciting period because it straddles the Bolshevik Revolution. I've always had a great interest in politics and literature, and at no time was the connection between the two stronger than it was then."

"One large, complicated project I'd really like to tackle is a full biography of the Russian author Maxim Gorky. He was an iconic figure in Russia and a very important figure politically. A lot of the letters that he wrote were not publishable under the Soviet regime or appeared only in censored form. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, a lot more information about him has become available. Nonetheless, there are some interesting aspects about his life to which you can't give absolute answers, which makes writing the biography a challenge and an adventure."


phone book

The Upper Valley phone book, 1973–74 (Dartmouth College Library)

About Barry Scherr: Provost since 2001, Scherr is also the Mandel Family Professor of Russian and has been a member of the faculty since 1974. A scholar of Russian literature, he has served as associate dean for the humanities in the arts and sciences and has chaired both the Department of Russian and the Program in Linguistics and Cognitive Science.

"I came to Dartmouth from my first teaching job at the University of Washington in Seattle," he says. "Hanover used to have these tiny phone books that were about 5 x 8 inches. I remember seeing that little phone book during my first visit and thinking, how small is this town going to be? But I found that there is so much available culturally here, and there are so many interesting people. I fell in love with Dartmouth and the area."

About the provost: Dartmouth's provost provides leadership in a variety of areas, including:

  • Serving as Dartmouth's chief academic officer
  • Overseeing the three professional schools
  • Direct responsibility for libraries, computing, the Hopkins Center for the Arts, the Hood Museum of Art, and many of the College's academic centers and institutes
  • Serving on the College's Budget Committee, with major responsibility for setting budget priorities and developing a strategic financial plan
  • Supporting Dartmouth's research infrastructure

 

INTERVIEW By SARAH MEMMI

Last Updated: 7/24/09