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David Stineback, Albright's ProvostInterview with Albright’s New Provost, David Stinebeck

David C. Stinebeck, Ph.D. took office as Albright College’s first provost in May.
The newly created position of provost, the chief academic officer and dean of the College, will expand the responsibilities of the current position of vice president of academic affairs.

Stinebeck will oversee 94 full-time faculty and 43 adjunct faculty, and all academic programs including those of Albright’s Graduate and Professional Division.

A noted author and scholar in the field of American literature, Stinebeck was formerly dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. Previously he was professor of English and chair of the department of English at the University of Rhode Island.

Stinebeck’s academic fields include all periods of American literature, as well as American intellectual history, particularly the Colonial period, and Native American cultures. His publications include two books, Shifting Worlds: Social Change and Nostalgia in the American Novel, and Puritans, Indians and Manifest Destiny, co-authored with Charles Segal. He is finishing a novel on the Civil War.

Stinebeck holds both doctoral and master’s degrees in American Studies from Yale University. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Stanford University.

He is a member of the editorial boards of the American Transcendental Quarterly and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal.

Stinebeck and his wife Ellen, who is a marriage and family therapist, live in Reading. They have two grown sons and a daughter.

AR: People sometimes wonder what a provost does and why Albright needs one. What’s the difference between the job of the provost and that of the vice president for academic affairs?

DS: The provost’s role is farther reaching. The academic affairs VP is primarily responsible for faculty and students — for hiring and evaluation of faculty, personnel issues, creating the academic course schedule, student academic services, advising, graduation, and the budget for the academic areas.

White ChapelThe provost is responsible not only for those areas, but for the relationship between the academic side of the house and all other units on campus. For example, how academics connect to development, financial administration, student life, and so on. The provost would be expected to comment on the overall College budget in relation to academics. My responsibilities also include the library and the registrar’s office. Another key area is student satisfaction. In other words, the overall quality of the academic experience.

One of my tasks is assessing the health of individual academic departments, to see, for example, if there are as many majors in the subject as there should be, is the curriculum as vigorous as it should be. I don’t know what the implications of this assessment will be. It’s just something the provost has to do in keeping the big picture of academics and a broad view of the academic health of the institution. For example, I am forming several advisory boards to consider the feasibility of certain new programs. We need to plan programs that will attract new students, not just shift current students. But that requires decisions about faculty, costs. We need to balance finances and strategic planning.

The provost and the president work in tandem, which makes a great deal of sense here at Albright. The president has also designated the provost to serve as acting president in his absence.

I also see my role as being actively involved in getting the word out about Albright. For example, working with the Alumni Relations Office and visiting alumni chapters to talk about academics at the College, or working with the Development Office to create grants for new initiatives and programs. I might attend gatherings of guidance counselors with the Admission Office. And I will be actively involved in the College’s marketing efforts and branding.

AR: What are your primary goals for Albright?

DS: My main concern will be getting everyone at Albright working toward the same goals with regard to academics. I will be very focused on effective planning for what we want to do and improve. For the College as a whole, my goal is for us to make the most of all the things we already do well, and plan to make them even better. The Commission on the Future began a process that involved a lot of people, and on campus we have seen how eager people are to work together to move forward. That includes involving alumni in what goes on and letting them know just how well we are doing. Albright does a lot of things that are really good for American education. Our diversity rate is outstanding for a school of this size. It is, I think, great for Albright to be in an area like Reading where there is such a diverse population and so many opportunities for service learning.

AR: What is the provost’s biggest challenge?

DS: To provide for an overall understanding of how the college operates to all of its constituencies. While some people can be a little nostalgic for the bygone days of the College, we need to let them know there is so much exciting going on. Today’s students are more diverse. Our interdisciplinary focus really prepares them to succeed, think on their feet, adapt, so our students can take better advantage of what is offered to them here. They see themselves coming to a school with a significant reputation and they think college is serious business. Our faculty are very demanding, with very high standards.

AR: What do you see as the value of Albright’s brand of interdisciplinary education?

DS: Interdisciplinary education prepares people better for the real world. It’s not easy to do, but students come out of college better prepared for society. Interdisciplinary education makes them think in less stereotypical ways. Small liberal arts colleges always prepared people better, in my opinion, so interdisciplinary education is like frosting on the cake. The trend at Albright is also toward more experiential learning, and service learning is almost by definition interdisciplinary. For example, students doing service learning and working in a social service agency see things from multiple perspectives. Reality is interdisciplinary.

Albright’s faculty work very hard, harder than many other faculties I’ve known. Especially in student advising, for example, since last year nearly half of our students have combined concentrations and we had 140 different combinations of majors and interdisciplinary majors on campus. I’m glad a system is now in place to improve compensation.


Interdisciplinary education prepares
people better for the real world.


AR: You mentioned service learning. Is that a priority for Albright?

DS: I strongly support service learning and I started the service learning initiative at Quinnipiac University. Students had opportunities to work in many social service agencies, to see how those agencies dealt with the community’s needs, and to evaluate themselves as well as to be evaluated. Albright has a long tradition of service which provides great opportunities for service learning. I think it would be an oversight if small liberal arts colleges didn’t support service learning. The main goal of service learning is to make more real what students are learning. Then it sticks. Students, for example, learn accounting better by working with a community agency on their income tax preparation.

Remember the “Saturday Night Live” character Guido Sarducci and his “Five-minute university?” His routine was about what you were going to remember 10 years after graduation. I know I didn’t remember a lot of facts, but I did remember experiences. Ideas we encounter in a real life context enable them to stick. At Stanford I took a course in American religions that included a weekend retreat for the class, which made the class absolutely memorable. When you encounter someone who lives the faiths that you had been reading about, it is powerful for an 18 or 19 year old.

It is important for faculty to build an experiential learning component into programs if possible. Now, not all programs can do this, but if one or two courses in each department have a service learning component, that will create a critical mass in terms of students being aware of the opportunities. Obviously not all students will take advantage of it, but we can aspire to double or triple our students’ involvement in the community.

AR: How about Albright’s other relations with the community?

DS: We have some important community outreach going on now and some great ideas about future projects, but we have to let the community decide what the vision is going to be. Colleges can’t go to the community and say “we think you need this.” That always fails. Instead we need to go and say “we have these resources, what do you need,” then it takes off. Colleges assume “we’re the experts, we’re the ones with advance degrees,” but it has been proven that if you let the community decide what the programs should be and then share your expertise, it succeeds.

Personally as well, I am looking forward to getting involved in the community here in Reading. We’ve always lived in cities similar in size to Reading, but lived outside the city. I like the idea of being in Reading.

 
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