Departing Provost reflects on 'Berg accomplishments

On May 18, Dr. Beth Schwartz will conclude five productive years as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost. She departs Heidelberg to become Provost and Professor of Psychology at Endicott College in Massachusetts.

“While I am excited about joining the Endicott community and heading ‘home’ to be near family, it is never easy to leave colleagues with whom I will genuinely miss working,” Beth said.

At Heidelberg, Beth landed her first position as chief academic officer, and she’s learned a great deal about clear communication, transparency and collaboration that she’ll take with her to her new position. But she won’t forget Heidelberg. “I look forward to watching from afar as the Heidelberg community identifies new directions and new opportunities that will help the university to become the institution of choice in the region and beyond. 

She leaves a strong legacy of accomplishments:

  • She reorganized the Academic Affairs leadership structure early on by establishing four academic deans, and then subsequently reduced that count to three deans, in order to provide stronger direction.
  • Through the Academic Strategic Initiatives for Improvement Plan (ASIIP), she led the faculty in introducing new programs and majors in Nursing, Exercise Science, Video Game Production, and Watershed Science.
  • Through ASIIP, she established the Center for Teaching Excellence in 2018 and then guided the strategic reorganization of the new Owen Center for Teaching and Learning that launched in January.
  • She supported the faculty to help us gain approval to introduce our new Masters in Athletic Training degree beginning in Fall 2021.
  • She collaborated closely with Student Affairs to ensure that our HYPE Career Ready Program rolled out successfully over the past four years.
  • Under her leadership, Heidelberg passed its 10-year reaccreditation with the Higher Learning Commission in 2016 and also gained or maintained accreditation in several specific programs, including Business (2017), Graduate Counseling (2018), Music (2019), Education (2019), and Athletic Training (2020).
  • With urgency over the last several weeks, she has supported the exceptionally hard work of the faculty and staff to convert our spring term curriculum to an online learning platform given the coronavirus threat.
  • Even while delayed by this significant global disruption, she has encouraged the Faculty to plan forward and finish developing the new Integrated Studies General Education Model.
  • She has worked to establish a new timeline for the Academic Majors Strategic Prioritization Process.  

“All of these accomplishments and work are testimony to Beth’s great passion for the undergraduate experience, strong commitment to student learning, and unwavering belief in the value of higher education at institutions such as ours,” said President Rob Huntington.

We asked Beth to reflect on her tenure at Heidelberg, and here’s what she had to say.

Q: Tell us what attracted you to Heidelberg initially.

A: When I searched initially for a faculty position and when searching for an administrative role, I sought an institution similar to my own undergraduate experience at Colby College where there is a liberal arts focus that provides intellectual agility, where academic rigor and excellence is at the core of the mission, where that academic experience includes high-impact learning experiences, and where a more holistic approach is valued to help students achieve success.  

Q: And in the Provost’s role?

A: I believe that the most effective chief academic officer has experience as a faculty member who has been in the classroom and who has experience developing a productive research program, particularly a research program that includes mentoring students. That experience allows for one to appreciate the faculty voice, to respect shared governance, to understand the challenges of balancing the important faculty role as a teacher as well as a scholar, and allows academic leadership to develop an environment that supports faculty at all stages of an academic career.

Q: As you think about your accomplishments at Heidelberg, what are you most proud of and what’s been most rewarding during your ‘Berg tenure?

This is a hard question. I am proud of the framework and process (ASIIP) that led to the new academic programs; programs that are connected to student interest and just the start of the greater partnership between the NCWQR and our academic program, and the unique educational opportunity for all Heidelberg students presented by the Integrated Studies general education model under development. But, I would say that I am most proud of the resources and programming now available through the Owen Center for Teaching and Learning. It was the CTL and the incredible staff in that center that allowed Heidelberg to pivot so smoothly to remote teaching this semester. The reorganization of the Owen Center for Academic and Career Support with the new Center for Teaching Excellence will be an invaluable resource for students and faculty for years to come. Then again, I would be remiss to not mention how proud I am of the incredible faculty who have joined us during the last 5 years – so many who have exceeded my expectations on the impact they’ve had across campus.

Q: Although it didn’t exactly conclude as you may have planned (with COVID-19 dominating so much of our work and thinking/planning in recent weeks), what will you remember most about your time at the ‘Berg and your first run as a provost? 

A: Without a doubt, I will remember most the incredible people with whom I had the opportunity to work alongside. From members of SLT to the exceptionally dedicated faculty, to the resourceful members of the Academic Affairs Leadership Team, and so many the wonderful members of the staff.

Q: What did you learn at Heidelberg that you’ll take with you to Endicott?

A: I learned that a new Provost must immediately work to become a trusted member of the community, and that requires a collaborative approach, transparency through effective communication channels, an understanding of shared governance, and involvement of appropriate stakeholders when attending to opportunities and challenges. I learned the importance of listening carefully to the goals and objectives of all constituencies on campus, and the essential partnering with the faculty and members of the Senior Leadership Team. My years at Heidelberg allowed me to learn how those partnerships are essential to take an idea from a proposal to actual impact on the student learning experience. I continue to learn how to consider both the needs of the faculty and the needs of the institution is the delicate balancing act for an effective Chief Academic Officer. 

Q: What would you like to say to the faculty whom you’ve led over the past few years?

A: Thank you! It has been a pleasure to work alongside so many colleagues who each and every day, dedicate their lives to their students.

Q: What will you miss most about HU?

A: I will certainly miss the people, but I will also miss watching some of the amazing evolution taking place at this university, which I truly believe will ensure even more great opportunities for Heidelberg students.

 

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