For several administrative positions on campus, last year was a year of transition. Two of those positions were the provost and vice president of student affairs. This year Karine Moe and Donna Lee took on the respective positions. The Mac Weekly checked in with them to see how they’re adjusting to the positions after a semester and meeting and amending their goals.
Provost Karine Moe adjusts to new responsibilities and faculty changes
Provost Karine Moe has held her position for just over a semester, having begun her position on July 1, 2015. Moe taught as a professor in the Macalester Economics department for 20 years, serving as Department Chair for the last three. While she has served on a number of faculty committees, this is her first administrative position. The Mac Weekly last interviewed Moe about her new position in April, and sat with Moe for a follow-up interview on February 12.
In her interview last April, Moe expressed a desire to get to know the faculty outside the Economics department. In order to achieve this goal, Moe has been attending faculty meetings and listening to department needs.
At the start of this year, Moe also said she wanted to focus on creating tactics to meet the priorities of Macalester’s Strategic Plan.
Macalester’s reaffirmation of their dedication to diversity and the creation of a Dean for Faculty Diversity and Development (DFDD) by Moe’s predecessor, Kathy Murray, made diversity an early priority of Moe’s. Moe said that she originally planned to fill the position that is focused on “diversifying [department] pools and … helping departments with tactics for interviewing and ways to diversify the faculty.” According to Moe, the Dean would have also “work[ed] on retention of faculty of color, work[ed] with faculty who want to develop courses that might count for the USID requirement, work[ed] on faculty who want help with teaching issues like race.” However with the resignation of Christy Hanson, Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship (IGC) Moe began to reconsider her original approach.
“When the Dean of the IGC resigned, I decided to take a step back,” Moe said. “I suspended that search, and I am merging those two positions into one and creating a new dean structure for the IGC.”
One of Moe’s other projects has been working with the Faculty Personnel Committee to overhaul the non-tenure track faculty system. Moe said she and the committee intend to adjust how adjunct faculty will be reviewed, and to “rewrite the language for what titles might be.” Moe said that the process should come to a vote at the faculty meeting in April.
Moe said that looking back, she didn’t fully realize the range of issues presented to a provost. But this doesn’t seem to bother her. In fact, she embraces it.
“I wouldn’t call [the amount of issues] an obstacle because I think it’s rather exhilarating … it’s been eye opening, let’s put it that way,” Moe said.
Moe made positive comments about her position.
“Every day, I think to myself that it’s a gift to have this job in this place,” Moe said. “This is an amazing faculty, an amazing staff. I already knew the students were amazing, because I knew the students very well, but this ability to take an institutional view, and see what everybody’s doing, has been remarkably rewarding.”
While Moe has enjoyed her time as provost thus far, she said she did not think it would be her final position in academia. Moe said she plans to go back to teaching economics in the future.
Vice President of Student Affairs Donna Lee settles in to second semester at Macalester
Donna Lee has just begun her second semester as Macalester’s Vice President of Student Affairs, after taking up the position last August. Now several months into her new position, Lee reflects on her first semester at Mac, her impressions of the student body and the importance of student involvement on campus.
One of the most significant differences Lee notes between Agnes Scott and Macalester is the size of the student body.
“I used to just walk through campus at Agnes Scott and pretty much at any given time of the day be able to touch almost every student,” Lee said. The larger campus makes it harder for Lee to get involved with the students. “I’ve been trying to think of ways that I could make more connections with students.”
She has concrete plans to make those connections. “I’ve been thinking about was maybe just having a table in Café Mac an hour a week where students can just join me for lunch.” Last semester, Lee had the opportunity to visit “Civic Ideals and Higher Education,” a first-year course co-taught by Patrick Schmidt and Brian Rosenberg.
“Just going in and being the guest speaker that time gave me exposure to a completely different group of students that I’m not sure I would have encountered otherwise,” Lee said.
Analyzing what she wants her work with Student Affairs to be about, Lee described the department as “intangible … that sense of the physical, social, emotional, psychological, spiritual”: essentially, everything that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of academics. Lee emphasized the importance of tailoring the program to fit what students want and need. She cited the creation of a partnership between the Health and Wellness Center and ProtoCall, a telephone counseling support service.
“There have been some big changes around the students who raised their hands and said, ‘We don’t have enough support around mental health,” Lee said. “We’re really ensuring that we’re being responsive to the student body.”
Lee described her first semester at Macalester as overwhelming, yet very welcoming. “I kind of felt like I was a deer in headlights most of the time, and I’m still learning a lot, I really am,” she said, laughing.
Although acclimating to the new environment was often overwhelming, Lee always felt welcomed to the Mac community. “Just the way that people interact and engage with each other, there’s such a strong sense of community. Even though I was new, I was made to feel like I was part of.”
Reflecting on the student body as a whole, Lee was impressed with the level of engagement that Mac students exhibit.
“I think Macalester students, probably more than any other students I’ve worked with, have commitment to the community,” Lee said. She sees that students here not only want to be involved in the college, but also expect to be involved and consulted about matters in their community.
Lee even raised concerns about whether Mac students are overly engaged; “Talk about busy!” she exclaimed. Her hope is that students will take time to reflect on the reasons behind their involvement. “There’s a high bar for involvement, which is good in terms of the spirit of achieving and creating and improving and progressing, but only if there’s that space for reflection and the permission to say no.”
Lee invites students to reach out to her if they want to email her or visit her office. “Hopefully, come see me at my table in Café Mac!” she added.