Provost Wohlpart parts with UNI


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Provost Jim Wohlpart addresses students, administration, faculty and staff at a Nov. 2015 meeting discussing discrimination and systemic racism on campus. Wohlpart will leave UNI in June to become the next president of Central Washington University.


Executive Vice President and Provost Jim Wohlpart’s decision to depart UNI to accept a position as Central Washington University’s president is a bittersweet one.

“I’m not necessarily interested in leaving UNI,” Wohlpart said. “In fact, I’m not interested in leaving UNI. It’s such a remarkable place – great faculty, great staff, amazing deans and department heads, and the students are just really, really fantastic.”

Wohlpart decided if he did leave, though, it would be for another institution that aligned with his core values and purpose. Central Washington, located in Ellensburg, Wash., emphasizes broad access to students, keeping higher education affordable and promoting diversity and inclusion. Forty percent of the student body comes from traditionally under-represented groups.

“They really want to build on the momentum of that, and that is something that I hold as a core value, that work of diversity and inclusion,” Wohlpart said, “and then also the work of equity of dismantling the systems and structures that oppress so many people.”

The university was looking for a president knowledgeable about shared governance, communication and transparency. Wohlpart has done a lot of this work at UNI and feels he can bring this knowledge and experience to Central Washington.

“When I was offered the job, I was stunned, excited, shocked … deeply humbled, and honored and grateful,” Wohlpart said.  “So, I didn’t necessarily expect to get an offer, but I certainly had confidence that this remarkable institution, the University of Northern Iowa, certainly did prepare me for what was coming next.”

Wohlpart, an English professor who continued teaching while working as an administrator, arrived at UNI in 2015 after 21 years at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Over the past six years, he and his wife, Sasha, have built many relationships in the Cedar Valley, which he said will make it difficult to leave when he departs depart for Central Washington University in June.

“The thing about leaving a place is it’s always the people that you will miss,” he said.

During his time at UNI, Wohlpart has served in many leadership roles: department head, associate dean, dean and then provost, as well as interim president for seven months starting in summer 2016. With each rank, he had the opportunity to see the bigger picture of the whole university.

“That broader view of how a university operates and how a university can achieve its vision and mission and strategic plan has been instrumental, and that work has been really critical to the work I’ve done here at UNI,” Wohlpart said.

Reflecting on his time at UNI, Wohlpart feels proud of the teams the university has built that he believes have done remarkable work around the campus. He commended them for engaging challenges and collaborating for the betterment of the UNI community.

One such team tackled the state legislator changing Chapter 20 bargaining laws in Feb. 2017, reducing unions’ abilities to bargain. This team of department heads, associate deans and deans rolled a contract into a handbook, an impressive feat amidst a challenging situation, Wohlpart shared.

Wohlpart looks forward to the relationships he will build at Central Washington. He’s already engaged with many students and faculty, whom he says are fantastic.

“What I’m really looking forward to is getting there and helping to elevate the work that they are already doing and do it at a higher level and build those teams and lead with purpose and passion so that all of us can come together around that,” Wohlpart said.

He also looks forward to the scenic views in Washington. The university is nestled in the eastern slope of the Cascades, a great location for Wohlpart, who enjoys hiking.

Higher education faces a variety of challenges, including handling budgets and funding, building an inclusive environment and evaluating unfair systems and structures.However, Wohlpart is familiar with this work from his time at UNI and feels prepared to lead Central Washington in tackling it.

“I always think of challenges as opportunities, not challenges,” he said. “This is a really challenging time in higher education, but also an exciting time, and I think as long as we come together as a community, we can do amazing and remarkable things.”

Many UNI students have touched Wohlpart’s heart, and he said he carries them with him as he prepares to leave for Washington. He hopes students recognize that they’re blessed to be at an institution where faculty and staff care about them.

“They really care about you as individuals; they care about your journeys. Recognize that, honor that and thank them for that as you go through this process and even as you leave,” he said.

Wohlpart encourages the next provost to listen to fellow faculty, collaborate and be inclusive and transparent.

“When you build that team and that trust and that community, you can do amazing things like we have done for the last six years,” he said.