New provost, new challenges

NICK FISHER, Executive Editor

Jim Wohlpart will replace interim provost Mike Licari, effective May 31. Wohlpart was selected by President Ruud last week to become the next UNI provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. 

Wohlpart is currently the Dean of Undergraduate Students at Florida Gulf Coast University. 

“The biggest challenge will be getting to know a new culture, because every institution is different,” Wohlpart said. 

The search began in the fall of 2014, after Licari stepped in for then-provost Gloria Gibson. This decision followed a vote of no confidence in both Gibson and UNI’s previous president, Ben Allen. 

“From the United Faculty’s perspective, [Wohlpart’s] most important challenge will be to help restore trust between the faculty and the administration. Now, the faculty culture is still affected and wounded by what happened in 2012 with the program cuts and loss of the Malcolm Price Lab School,” said Joe Gorton, president of the faculty union. 

Gorton is referring to the nearly 60 UNI programs that were cut, along with the nationally renowned Price Lab School, between 2012 and 2014. 

The faculty union is the collective bargaining agent for UNI — the negotiating party that represents UNI faculty in discussions with the administration. 

“[Wohlpart] has been a longtime advocate of the faculty,” said John Johnson, chair of the provost search committee. 

Wohlpart plans to spend his time listening to faculty, staff and student leaders, as well as others within the university, prior to the official starting date. This will help him to get a concrete sense of the university’s organization and the reasons behind this organization.

In his open forum presentation, Wohlpart outlined the significance of a university’s vision and mission.  The vision and mission must be clear and intentionally executed. 

UNI’s vision and mission are defined by a strong focus on teaching and learning, according to Wohlpart. A product of this focus is a faculty, staff and administration thoroughly invested in engaging students and working to help them achieve success. 

“The thing that is really interesting at UNI is the way in which the faculty and staff are interested in transformative learning. They are interested in this kind of ever-evolving sense of self that students develop,” Wohlpart said. 

For Wohlpart, transformative learning consists of the dual purposes that ‘traditional’ classroom learning serves within the 21st century context. Students must gain knowledge and skills in order to apply them in the future. The university also bears the responsibility of developing student wisdom (the ability to use the knowledge and skills) and student ethics, as well empathy, care and compassion. 

“And also for me, [it’s about] developing a sense of awe and wonder in the world around us so that we are always curious and always wanting to learn,” Wohlpart said. 

Licari, also a candidate for provost, has been named as provost for Indiana State University. 

“Well, I think we all knew that Mike [Licari] was looking for administrative jobs. . . I don’t think it was a surprise to other people on the faculty or search committee,” said Johnson. 

Johnson feels that he — in conjunction with Janice Hannish, provost search manager, and the rest of the search committee — has presided over a successful search. 

Gorton also commends the President and the Board for their choice. 

“I think another really positive part of [Wohlpart] coming here is that he is not a part of the administration’s ‘Old Guard,’” Gorton said. “He’s not part of the administrative leadership that was here in 2012.”