University appoints new provost to focus on student success

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President Beth Paul has appointed Dr. Jody S. Fournier to the position of provost and vice president of learning, concluding a nationwide search that began last year. The decision has been confirmed by the Board of Trustees and will take effect on June 1, 2017.

“[Fournier] has an infectious positive attitude and outlook and unwavering passion and motivation for effecting progress,” President Paul said in an email announcing the decision. “He understands and feels our mission and our potential, and he makes it happen. This is the spirit that I seek in the leaders of our learning community.”

Fournier, who has been associate provost of academic and student affairs since the fall of 2010, said that he is excited to assume the position of provost and will be looking to better integrate the traditionally separate divisions of academic and student affairs.

“At most universities, the provost is the chief academic office,” Fournier said. “But we recognize that to help students succeed, [Capital] has to better pay attention to the holistic education of the student, inside and outside of the classroom. We started that a few years ago by uniting the departments of [academic and student affairs].”

The idea to combine the departments came from a self-study conducted by the university during the 2012-2013 academic year, which looked at what the university could do to promote and remove barriers to student success.

The study also lead to a greater focus on transitioning first-year students to campus, through programs such as Smooth Transitions and Cap 101, which go beyond traditional orientation.

“Even though [academic and student affairs] both report up to the provost, they are still largely two separate areas,” Fournier said. “But the position has been radically redesigned … to go to the next level of integrating the departments.”

To further signify the restructuring of the position, the university has changed the title from provost and vice president of academic and student affairs, to provost and vice president of learning.

“[Members of both departments] will be at the table when we are discussing classes and things outside of classes so everyone has a say,” Fournier said. “That’s what makes the position very different and exciting.”

The restructuring of the position was first announced in the prospectus for the nationwide search that began after the retiring of Provost Richard Ashbrook at the end of the 2016 spring semester. By January, the candidate pool had been narrowed down to twelve individuals, two of whom were later invited to visit campus.

Fournier, along with Dr. Barbara Feldman, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, held presentations and open discussions with the campus community on Feb. 7 and 9 respectively.

The search committee, which was co-chaired by Lynn Dailey, professor of business, and Tanya Poteet, university counsel, collected feedback from those in attendance. In the email announcement of Fournier’s appointment, President Paul said that the community highlighted his strengths as follows:

“He brings people together to solve problems, remove barriers and to create learning opportunities. Multiple perspectives are welcome, and he is skilled at hearing others’ perspectives, noticing commonalities and differences. He engages in difficult conversations, addressing conflict thoughtfully, calmly, and with a high-road goal in mind. He respects deeply that the most important work we do to advance our institution involves everyone – our successes are the result of the hard work of the entire community.”

Fournier earned his Ph.D. in developmental psychology from The Ohio State University in 1999, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 1992 and a Master of Science in family relations in human development in 1994. He joined Capital’s faculty in 1999 as an assistant professor of behavioral science before receiving tenure in 2005.

He received the Small College Roundtable Award for Curricular Innovation from the Ohio Psychological Association for a teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS prevention project in 2008, and in 2009, he was awarded the Community Leadership Award by Franklin County Children Services for community engagement work with community settlement houses in Columbus.

Fournier said that he is optimistic about the direction Capital is taking and will continue to promote a unique campus environment geared toward student success.

“We’re really one of the first schools to have this new integrated model,” Fournier said. “We’re on the cutting edge, and we’re getting some national recognition for the work that we’ve been doing on student success. I really feel like in five years, we are going to be the school that other universities send representatives to to see what cool things we’re doing to help students.”

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