The provost, while having minimal immediate involvement in student affairs, is responsible for the inception of the ‘big-picture initiatives’ that have got to do with academic affairs that ultimately impact their students. The decisions provosts take, in more ways than one, can not only shape the student life on campus but also the students’ lives after graduation.
Keeping students engaged
A majority of students enrolled in the four-year college courses fail to graduate even after six years since enrolment. Most such students drop-out of college due to a variety of reasons, chiefly stemming from a lack of engagement. Provosts hold the responsibility of planning and executing initiatives aimed at maximizing student engagement and consequently improving the overall student retention rate. Provosts can use various technological tools, such as analytics, to identify the unengaged students and provide them with counseling and advice before they drop out and to bring students back on track so they complete their education.
Creating an inclusive learning environment
Ensuring the inclusion of students belonging to every socio-economic and cultural background is a key area of focus for a provost. A considerable number of students studying in the US consist of non-native English speakers, who usually require special attention and training. It is the duty of provosts to ensure that such students aren’t left unattended and to provide these students with adequate support and guidance.
Translating academic success into career success
The ultimate objective of providing education to students, and ensuring their academic success, is to make them employable and to secure their careers. Universities providing higher education are obligated to train and prepare students to meet the demands of the job market. Planning academic programs that will translate into high employability in a competitive job market is a key responsibility of the provost. Keeping students engaged and fostering an inclusive environment will be of little use if the students, upon graduation, are not equipped with the right skills. Planning academic programs based on the skill demand, using applications that perform labor market analytics, can enable provosts to translate academic success into career success.
Although the role of a provost can vary across institutions, the above three areas are where provosts can make the greatest impact. Furthermore, ensuring student academic success and enabling students to secure employment will, in turn, help provosts improve the university’s future enrollment rate by boosting the institution’s overall ranking. After all, the success of universities lies in the success of its students.