After nearly a year as interim provost, Robert Mokwa was officially named the MSU provost on April 19. Though not much has changed in his everyday responsibilities, he said the differences have more to do with his outlook, thought process and interactions with others.
“It opens up more opportunities for longer-range planning,” Mokwa said.
Much of Mokwa’s work will center around the university’s Strategic Plan, a campus-wide effort over the course of 18 months to develop integrated goals for the university.
Mokwa’s focus for the coming year will be on five priorities derived from the Strategic Plan: increased excellence in the MSU graduate program; retention of students (especially between freshman and sophomore year); graduation rates; increased research. The final priority is stewardship of people, MSU’s most important resource, which includes the salaries, retention and professional development of faculty.
He stressed the need to be thoughtful and careful with the finite resources the university has at its disposal, but was not worried about any potential obstacles: “I think by working together, all five of those goals are attainable.”
Mokwa mentioned that he is often asked a funny question: “What does a provost do?”
The provost is the chief academic officer and second in command only to the president of the university. “My overarching responsibility,” Mokwa said, “is to make sure that we are delivering quality education.”
He leads a team comprised of the deans of the academic colleges. They work together to ensure that academic programs are successful, reviewing and updating them as needed.
The team is also responsible for developing programs that meet the needs of our ever-changing world, as well as maintaining a healthy balance of research, an element in which students have the opportunity to partake that also makes the faculty into better teachers.
“Part of what we do as a land grant university is discovery,” Mokwa said. “Research is about discovery: creating knowledge and then using that knowledge to teach our students.”
A special focus of MSU is on the land grant mission of discovery, learning and outreach. “We put a lot of importance and attention on integrating those three.” This tripartite goal, Mokwa said, is really what makes MSU different from other universities.
Combined with the Strategic Plan and MSU’s Culture of Collaboration, Mokwa is excited to provide more avenues for student success.
“We can’t accomplish anything individually,” he said, “but by working together to achieve common goals, I mean, that’s what’s going to advance our university.”