Students gather to discuss Bravman replacement

May 12, 2010, 1:04 a.m.

The search committee for candidates to replace Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) John Bravman ’79 M.S. ’81 Ph.D. ’85 met with a small group of students Tuesday evening as it prepares to provide Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82 a shortlist of candidates by Commencement, just over a month from now.

Bravman, 52, who has served in the position since 1999, announced last month that he will leave Stanford to become president of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Penn., in July.

Committee chair Brad Osgood, the senior associate dean for student affairs in the School of Engineering, said the purpose of Tuesday’s town hall was “to have students talk about their views of undergraduate education.” Three students attended the meeting, all of whom were representatives from Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS); each spoke extensively of what he or she would like to see in the next vice provost.

“I think the next vice provost should be interactive, very knowledgeable of social media, someone who’s willing to break the mold and someone who really interacts with students one-on-one,” said Noemi Walzebuck ’13.

Walzebuck shared a story of meeting representatives from the Living Wage Campaign and hearing their frustration that President John Hennessy had not granted them a meeting.

“That’s, I think, what we would want the vice provost not to do,” she said.

David Geeter ’11, a co-president of SSS, stressed his belief that the next vice provost should emphasize interdisciplinary studies.

“The planet’s most pressing challenges are ones that are interdisciplinary and multi-faceted and require holistic solutions,” he said. “Have we assessed how prepared students are to meet these challenges?”

Miguel San Pedro ’12 said he would like the next vice provost help incoming students bridge their passions to their academic interests.

“Many of us come here knowing that we’re so multi-faceted,” he said. “But it takes a while for us to zero in on a single field that we’re really passionate about and that we want to stick with for four years.”

Committee members also told the students the characteristics they would like to see in the vice provost, who interfaces not only with students but also with faculty and fellow administrators.

“It’s a position that looks in two directions at once,” said Ramon Saldivar, a professor of humanities and sciences and the former vice provost for undergraduate education before Bravman. “It’s very useful to know lots of faculty throughout the University. This person is going to have to be a great scholar, a good teacher, a good administrator and a great people person.”

Andrea Lunsford, a professor of English and the director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR), said the vice provost will have to be able to persuade both people at Stanford and Stanford affiliates, including donors.

“The person needs to be a really, really strong communicator who is very aware of the different constituencies and able to speak compellingly, gracefully and powerfully to donors, faculty and students,” she said.

“I don’t think there are many people who are good at all those things,” she added.

Osgood said in the next month, the committee, which is made up of eight faculty and staff and two students, will sit down with all of Stanford’s deans and the heads of all VPUE units, which include PWR, Introduction to the Humanities (IHUM), the Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP) and Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR), among others.

The committee has also set up an e-mail account to solicit further input as it continues its search. Any member of the Stanford community can e-mail the committee at [email protected].

“When there’s a change in leadership,” Osgood said, “it’s a good time to ask: how are things? And what opportunities are there to improve?”

Devin Banerjee was president and editor in chief of Volume 236 of The Stanford Daily, serving from June 2009 to January 2010. He joined The Daily's staff in September 2007. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @devinbanerjee.

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