By Dr. Stanley Napper, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, HBU
It is an honor and a calling to serve as Provost The mission of HBU is unique, motivational, and desperately needed in the world of higher education. The history of HBU, as recorded by my predecessor in the role, Dr. Don Looser, is truly “An Act of Providence.” Serving here is an “act of providence” for me personally, as well as a calling, a miracle and an opportunity.
PRIOR EXPERIENCE AND CALLING
I came to HBU in 2017 on a mission, a calling from God to start an engineering school; this mission is still a driving motivation for me, and we look forward to having our first graduates in May 2022. In 2019, President Sloan asked me to lead a new College of Science and Engineering, formed from the still new engineering school and the long-respected College of Science and Mathematics.
Additionally, God has provided me with experience, wisdom, ideas, and confidence gained through raising a family (Vicki and I have been married 41 years; we have eight children who were homeschooled, five of whom are married, and we have four grandsons and a baby granddaughter). God has also nurtured my leadership by allowing me to serve at my local church in various capacities, and to pursue scholarship and academic training (BS and PhD in Biomedical Engineering).
ROLE OF THE PROVOST
As Provost, I view myself as the Chief Learner; I look forward to constantly gaining new knowledge and confronting the challenges that arise from the subjects in all our colleges. I have the privilege and the responsibility to learn about all the disciplines and programs and faculty, as well as learning new aspects of executive-level administration in higher education. I also hope to be a facilitator of the organization, sustainability, and excellence of HBU’s academic processes and programs. The Provost must also be a facilitator of the Christian mission and purpose of the University. In doing these things, the Provost serves as a representative of the administration (the Executive Council), of the faculty and staff, and of the students.
PASSION FOR LEADERSHIP
When I was interviewed for my first dean’s job in 2004, I asked God to help me understand what was needed and how to lead that organization. I believe He showed me some ideas that have been practical and very useful to me since that time, and likely for the remainder of my administrative service. To a large degree, these principles define my leadership style.
P– PURPOSE = the reason, the motivation, the goal, |the concise statement of vision and mission, |for a person, or a committee, or an organization.
Stating and knowing the purpose makes decision-making, especially in hard times, clearer. It makes committee meetings more focused and makes personal prioritization of time and effort clearer.
A- ACCOUNTABILITY AND ASSESSMENT = striving to improve by knowing where you stand
|and evaluating if you are making progress. It helps in this effort to be accountable to friends or to objective observers. To be the “best,” you must know the standards, know when you are not meeting the standards, and when you are improving.
S- SERVICE TO STUDENTS = adjusting methods |and attitudes and priorities to place the role |of serving students as our top priority. Even scholarship, research, publication, or service can and should be motivated by its benefit to the students. This is also an expression of our surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, as an expression of our service to Him.
S- STRATEGIC PLAN = a structure for moving |forward with many different and sometimes |competing activities and tasks in a framework for assuring completeness and accomplishment. A strategic plan flows from the vision and mission, but it is expressed in tasks and actions, metrics and timelines, rationale and results.
I- INTERDISCIPLINARY INTEGRATION = bringing together diverse disciplines, diverse perspectives, and diverse experiences that complement and sharpen everyone on the team.
O– ORGANIZATION = structure and process and |expectation and order; expressed in forms, |committees, minutes of meetings, and deadlines.
N- NEW IDEAS (FLEXIBILITY) = innovative |processes and expectations and curricula; based |on assessment and structure, but not bound by structure; involves accepting risk and novel ideas.
& PASS IT ON = COMMUNICATION, the last but not least of the PASSION leadership principles; it is a reminder that internally and externally, effective communication is a priority and a challenge and a routine.
I am committed to pursuing our Christ-centered education mission, identifying the needs that HBU’s academic programs can address, and finding the methods that will bring the deepest impact to today’s students and culture. We will endeavor to use resources (faculty, staff, students, equipment, space, and funding) effectively and strategically; to collaborate and support each other across academic units, and to provide the information and motivation to support each program. We will continue to innovate our degree programs, delivery methods, and our view of revenue and resources. We will find ways to integrate people and programs and to demonstrate to our students that the liberal arts are vital to every meaningful human endeavor, including the professions.
I hope our faculty and students have already observed these leadership principles and style in the last year (four years at HBU). I hope our alumni and supporters can see in these principles and priorities ways that you can pray for HBU, and to engage and support us in our shared mission. I hope our HBU family would find that I am objective, honest, candid, and transparent; thoughtful and open-minded; faithful and dependable; responsive to research and data; able and willing to share decision-making and responsibility; organized, but flexible; creative, but receptive; willing and capable of leading, but willing and capable of following; willing to offer and try new ideas, and willing to back off when there is no consensus; willing to ask hard questions and make hard decisions; and willing to receive and attempt to answer hard questions.
PRIORITIES FOR THE PROVOST
With four new deans, and new leadership in Student Affairs, we are working together to evaluate and improve our academic programs and student success initiatives. We recently launched the Center for Learning Innovations and Teaching Excellence (C-LITE), a faculty-led professional development center to help all our faculty more effectively use instructional technology and pedagogical methods which meet the needs of Gen Z students and adult learners.
We are also continuing a long, sustained effort to implement strategic activities such as a more streamlined academic administration; growing emphasis on the integration of faith and learning; more well-integrated partnerships between online & residential divisions of HBU; innovative and functional models for budget preparation and management; responsiveness to the changing demographics of the student body and the support needed for first-generation students; routine academic program review; a recommitment to “build on the classics”; and building key programs to a level of national influence.
Obviously, these are significant goals, and we do not expect to accomplish all of them in one year, and some projects may take years. Here are some of the initiatives that are underway:
- Long-Term Sustainability of HBU: We are assessing the possibility of future changes in federal funding, restrictions or requirements for religious institutions, declining economy, changing demographics, or other factors that impact the affordability or the viability of the institution and its programs.
- Ten Pillars for 2030: The foundation narrative of the document was written by Dr. Sloan. He identified 10 core convictions that will guide the University for the next 10 years, and a number of spheres of influence in which HBU could and should make an impact for the kingdom of God. A series of listening sessions and input opportunities in October of 2019 resulted in pages of innovative and strategic ideas. The Executive Council dedicated three full days at the beginning of 2021 to begin prioritizing these ideas, to evaluate trends and possibilities over the next few years, and to develop a framework for a new plan. Teams of faculty and staff worked tirelessly this fall to complete the plan in order to share it with the Husky family.
- Faculty Hiring for 2021-2022: In recent years, due to a number of compounding circumstances, the number of full-time faculty has decreased during a time when the number of students has increased. A focus for 2021-2022 will be to meet some urgent needs for professors in certain areas. We have hired 22 new faculty since Fall of 2020 (of which over one-third are from under-represented minorities.)
- Fundraising for STEM Building: This is a $50M project for which $21M has been pledged. This project could be transformative, not only for science, engineering and nursing programs, but also for every program on campus as it draws good students and teachers to the campus and meets the high demand for graduates of these programs.
- Launching The Morris Family Center for Law and Liberty: Construction on the first phase of the Center’s permanent home in a full-scale replica of Independence Hall is planned to finish by Fall 2022. The center will include two adjacent academic buildings. This will bring thousands of new visitors to our campus every year and will widen our ability to inculcate a deeper appreciation and application of America’s democratic and constitutional ideals in a time when these are highly contested.
- Provost’s Excellence Fund: $100,000 has been budgeted in 2021-2022 to support innovative projects that lead to excellence in any aspect of academic affairs or student affairs. Up to ten awards will be made from these funds. The purpose of the Provost’s Excellence Fund is to encourage and support innovative proposals that advance Christian worldview integration, cross-disciplinary integration, service to students leading to student success, or organizational efficiency. We hope that these pilot or preliminary projects could lead to new programs, services, technology, or teams that serve the mission of HBU.
VISION FOR THE ACADEMIC PROGRAMS
My “vision” for the academic programs at HBU derives from the University’s mission statement. We should strive to be the best college in the world for demonstrating and building academic, professional, and spiritual excellence. Academic excellence is demonstrated by faculty and students in courses, undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, online learning, active learning, and Gen Z learning. Professional excellence is demonstrated in service to our academic disciplines, service to the University, scholarship and research, and developing future professionals. Spiritual excellence is demonstrated by communicating the Lordship of Jesus Christ and its implications for every sphere of life and human knowledge, communicating the presence and power of God’s Spirit, and communicating the way, the truth and the life found in God’s Word and His Son.
A truly Christian university exhibits a clear Christian identity, is led by core convictions, is accountable to the larger Christian community, and is an extension of the heart of the church. The faculty of a Christian university must be committed to its Christian purpose and must search for truth in the many ways God reveals it. The Christian university, while plural in expression, is unified in faith and in truth, recognizing that all genuine truth is found in God. The faculty must be willing and able to address hard questions about truth, and to demonstrate how every discipline is enlightened by Christ. These principles are taken from “The Christian University: Eleven Theses” by Richard John Neuhaus (https://www.firstthings. com/article/1996/01/the-christian-university-eleven-theses).
VISION FOR THE FACULTY
Dr. Sloan’s vision for faculty hiring begins with the understanding that “curriculum is important, but faculty are more important.” Each new, and continuing faculty member at HBU should:
- Express a robust Christian faith
- Enthusiastically prefer to be at a Christian university with a biblical foundation and mission like HBU •Care about the transformation of students and serve as a mentor and friend to students
- Offer good credentials; from their past work and with evidence that they are still learning and growing professionally
- Help the University recruit and hire other faculty who embrace our core convictions and mission
As Provost, I fully endorse these criteria and seek to identify and employ as our teachers and mentors those who exhibit all five of these criteria. In addition, I would like to hire role models for our students who can relate to their backgrounds and cultures, who can become mentors and encouragers to our diverse student population, and who can adapt their methods for the mission field we serve. I enjoy the opportunity to interview every final faculty candidate, to consider student evaluations in the search process, and to rely on strong communication between dean and candidate during the entire search process. We are placing a renewed emphasis on teaching and mentoring as forms of discipleship.
I hope that, as Provost of HBU, I can serve as the Chief Learner, and as a role model; still reading, studying, and learning. After having served almost fifty years as a choir accompanist, I hope I can demonstrate the attitude of a good accompanist – someone who skillfully plays his instrument while others direct and perform, but also having occasional opportunities to introduce, or conclude, or interlude. I hope I can continue to be Dad to my adult children
and my small grandchildren but employ some of the same concepts that make fatherhood incredibly important and rewarding in my work at HBU – looking ahead, protecting, leading by example, finding resources, working in a team, leading those you serve toward independence from me and dependence on God. Above all, I hope can continue to be a disciple – desperately praying, needing God, willing to go anywhere and do anything.
Photo gallery: Michael Tims