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September 2, 2010

Beeson appoints 3 vice provosts

As she promised after being elected provost in June, Patricia E. Beeson has moved quickly to round out her team of senior staff, naming three Pitt faculty members to vice provost positions.

Beeson’s rise to provost, effective Aug. 15, coupled with the retirement of Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Resources Management Robert F. Pack, left two of five vice provost positions vacant.

Economics department chair David DeJong has been named vice provost for academic planning and resources management; mathematics professor Juan J. Manfredi, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the School of Arts and Sciences, has been named vice provost for undergraduate studies, and political science professor Alberta M. Sbragia, director of the European Union Center of Excellence and European Studies Center, has been named vice provost for graduate studies.

Pack will remain in the Provost’s office through the fall term to aid in the transition.

DeJong, Manfredi and Sbragia will join Andrew R. Blair, vice provost for faculty affairs; Kathy W. Humphrey, vice provost and dean of students, and George E. Klinzing, vice provost for research,  raising the number of vice provosts to six as the graduate and undergraduate studies positions Beeson previously held again are being divided.

“I think we’ve captured a lot of the benefits of having them together, now we can go back to having two people do it, having laid that foundation,” Beeson said.

When the two positions were combined in 2006, Beeson said the administration saw potential benefits from the synergies between graduate and undergraduate education. “There definitely are very strong synergies,” she said. “I think we’ve been able to exploit them and in many ways we’ve institutionalized them through procedures and through the staffing in those areas.”

However, times have changed, Beeson noted. “There’s been a lot of increased work associated with accreditation, with calls for accountability at both the federal and state levels, and this whole emphasis on assessment  — assessment of student learning and in other areas. And that made that position just too much for one person,” she said.

“In fact, long before I ever thought of having my name considered for provost, I had planned to ask the new provost if we could split the position. … It just became too much,” she said.

The search for the new vice provosts was internal, Beeson said. “I felt we have strong faculty and staff here and was fairly confident I’d be able to identify people. What I was really pleased by was the fact that I’d had so many serious academics, serious talented administrators willing to put their name forward or have their names considered.” Beeson estimated there were 20-30 candidates for the positions.

“It made my decision really hard — the good and the bad of it is I had some real choices to make.

“I think that it reflects the fact that people are increasingly feeling part of the institution and they want to contribute to its success beyond their own individual contributions as scholars,” the provost said.

“I’m just delighted that I was able to recruit three individuals who are strong academics — they’re talented and experienced administrators and respected faculty members. I think that combination of having strong core academic values and having their own academic accomplishments, administrative skills and the respect that all three of them have is what makes good administrators at Pitt. It’s what makes the University run well.”

The first senior staff meeting with the new vice provosts was set for Sept. 1. The speed with which the new administrators were named has left all three with loose ends to tie up and vacancies to be filled.

DeJong is in the final year of a National Science Foundation grant with research projects in progress; Manfredi, in his role as the School of Arts and Sciences associate dean for undergraduate studies, has obligations related to the start of the academic year, including orientation of faculty and department chairs. Sbragia, who has been on sabbatical and working on a book, is cutting short a planned fall term sabbatical.

DeJong and Manfredi’s appointments took effect Sept. 1; Sbragia will begin officially in her new post in October.

Beeson said, “I certainly understand that they’re going to be spending some of their time in the coming months making sure that transition is smooth because it’s important for the success for the University and of this office that each of the places that they’re leaving is also successful.”

University Center for International Studies (UCIS) director Larry Feick said a search would commence to find a replacement for Sbragia with the hope of having her position at the European Union Center of Excellence and European Studies Center filled by Jan. 1. Carolyn Ban, professor and former dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, has been acting director of the centers during Sbragia’s sabbatical and plans to remain through Dec. 31, Feick said.

The process for finding a new associate dean for undergraduate studies to replace Manfredi requires the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences to make a nomination to the School of Arts and Sciences Council, after which the approved candidate can be recommended to the provost with the council’s support.

David DeJong

David DeJong

DeJong came to Pitt in 1989 as an assistant professor and was promoted to professor in 2001. He became chair of the economics department in 2006.

He also has been a member of or representative to the University Planning and Budgeting Committee’s parameters subcommittee, the advisory committee for the admission of student athletes and the Board of Trustees budget committee.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics, summa cum laude, at Central College in Iowa and his doctorate in economics at the University of Iowa.

DeJong said his association with Beeson began as colleagues in the economics department when he joined the faculty in 1989. Over the years, that affiliation has developed into a personal friendship as well, he said.

Coming to the Office of the Provost marks the first time he’s held a non-academic position, allowing him to put theoretical concepts into practice, DeJong said. “It’s a challenge jumping in,” he noted, adding that he was interested in the many facets encompassed by the academic planning and resources management position.

DeJong said he expects his background would serve him well in resources management aspects, given that decision-making amid financial restraints is a familiar economics concept.

He also expressed respect for the office’s progress under former provost James V. Maher, adding that succeeding Pack in the vice provost role presents a challenge. “I’ll fill some big shoes,” he said.

JuanManfrediHighManfredi, who also joined the Pitt faculty in 1989, has received several teaching awards including, in 1994, the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award. Manfredi was promoted to full professor in 1998. He chaired the math department 2005-07 before becoming the Arts and Sciences associate dean of undergraduate studies.

Manfredi earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in 1979 and his master’s and PhD degrees in mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis in 1984 and 1986, respectively.

Manfredi noted that he worked on various projects with Beeson when she was vice provost, adding that he aims to continue to “contribute to the mission that our undergraduate students do very well” in his new role in the Provost’s office.

He said his general role is to support the provost in promoting undergraduate programs and help compete among the best universities, “making sure undergraduate students have access to excellent programming and appropriate resources in order to attract better and better students with higher and higher expectations.”

He also will play a part in the assessment of learning outcomes related to Pitt’s reaccreditation.

Manfredi stressed his belief in the importance of opportunities for undergraduate research and quality study-abroad experiences.

He said he also has an interest in technology issues and the emergence of new technologies, including the move toward electronic textbooks and the impact of iPad and notebook computers as they replace printed material. Knowing when to embrace new technology can be difficult to gauge, he said.

“You don’t want to be the first to try something, but you also don’t want to be the last.”

Manfredi maintained that Pitt “already has pretty good technical offerings,” and that he wants to ensure they are incorporated into the culture of the University’s curriculum and teaching.

“We serve the students,” Manfredi said, adding that his goal is to see them both happy and well educated at Pitt.

Alberta M. Sbragia

Alberta M. Sbragia

Sbragia earned her undergraduate degree from Holy Names College in Oakland, Calif., after spending her junior year studying at the Sorbonne. She earned her PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin, where her studies included research in Italy as a Fulbright Scholar.

An expert on European politics and economics, Sbragia joined Pitt’s faculty in 1974 and taught American and European urban politics and policy. After a year as a visiting faculty member at Harvard, in 1984 she returned to Pitt to become director of Pitt’s West European studies program, now the European Studies Center.

In 1998, Sbragia was named director of Pitt’s European Union Center, which in 2005 was elevated to the status of European Union Center of Excellence.

“I loved what I was doing but I’ve been there a long time,” Sbragia said, noting that a fresh view will be good for the center. “I’ll miss it a lot myself, but I’m sure it’ll be in good hands.”

While she has worked with some of Pitt’s deans as the EU center director, Sbragia said she is excited about working more closely with them to hear their ideas on the direction of graduate education at Pitt.

Sbragia said she recognizes the complexity of the field of graduate education with numerous variations depending on the school, whether the program leads to a master’s or PhD, and the range of interdisciplinary and cross-school programs.

“Pitt is a really, really, really interesting place. The parts of it I know I find really interesting. I’m sure I’m going to have the same reaction to the parts I don’t know about that I’m going to explore,” Sbragia said.

Before her appointment officially starts, Sbragia already will get an introduction to the wide range of issues related to graduate education as she represents the University at a meeting of Association of American Universities graduate deans later this month.

While Sbragia expects that her new role will come with a big learning curve, “I don’t feel as if I’m going into this blindfolded,” she said, given that Beeson has preceded her as the vice provost. “She knows the terrain so well.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 43 Issue 1

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