Provost office offers link between students and administration


Gary Schuster announced on Oct. 21 that he will be stepping down from his position as executive vice president for Academic Affairs as soon as his replacement is found.

The Institute hopes to find a replacement for the position by July 1, 2010. Schuster has served as the provost since August of 2006 and will be returning to the faculty in the College of Science.

“I spent 12 years as Dean of Sciences, and when President Clough asked me to step in as Provost, I saw it as an exciting opportunity to continue to advance Tech’s academic reputation,” said Schuster, “I have a lot of satisfaction as Provost by working with students – in particular, putting in place opportunities for them to expand their intellectual horizons.”

The provost office, nestled in the middle of campus in the Carnegie Building, is the direct link between students and upper administration, making it their duty to report and resolve all student concerns.

The provost itself is considered the chief academic officer of the campus, overseeing professors, deans, curriculum, research, and other academic affairs.

The provost can only handle so much alone, however, so he is assisted by two senior vice provosts and other assistant provosts and directors for more specific areas. Schuster is assisted by Dr. Anderson Smith, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Mark Allen, Senior Vice Provost for Research and Innovation.

“We deal with everything at Tech on the education side from budgeting, to deciding who gets to hire who, and, especially in this economy,” said Vice Provost Dr. Anderson Smith, “We also meet with the deans and associate deans to accomplish more specific tasks with individual schools.”

Vice Provost Mark Allen added that the provost is someone who can earn the respect of faculty and present Tech well. In fact, when former President Clough resigned last year, Schuster served as interim president until President Peterson assumed the office.

Allen said Schuster did a tremendous job guiding Tech through the last year of the nationwide financial crisis that’s seriously affected Tech.

Smith covers affairs more closely related with students from freshman experience to PhD students, including undergraduate studies, international programs like study abroad, faculty/curriculum review, and meeting with his Student Advisory Council.

“During Student Advisory Council meetings, Dr. Smith is trying to get a feel for how students are feeling about various issues, questions, and initiatives on campus, and we members of the committee give valuable input throughout the discussions,” said Steph Robbins, fifth-year IE, president of the Ramblin’ Wreck Club, “Dr. Smith is always very eager to help students with any issues they are having with their professors and is constantly telling us to encourage our peers to notify him of any such issues. I personally reached out to him one day and he responded and acted upon my request with 24 hours.”

This council is composed of SGA-affiliated students and members of other prominent student organizations who share their thoughts and concerns their organizations deal with.

“When the students wrote this year’s White Paper to President Peterson, I dealt with those concerns,” said Smith, “One of the big concerns there was that we’d finally get a student portal, and there are now plans in place to get that running.”

This term, Smith has dealt with developing a plan for summer term, potential plus/minus letter grading, and graduate health insurance; all these he strongly based his work and decisions on opinions and requests of students.

He has never turned down a request by a student to speak with him for any reason, and he invites anyone with thoughts or concerns about curriculum, professors, or any other academic affairs to meet him.

In the area of undergraduate and graduate research, Allen is the key player in the provost office. A major initiative of the undergraduate research program, is the Inventure Prize, which incentivizes undergraduate students to develop entrepreneurial skills and innovative inventions in a fun, high-profile event.

The winning team earns $10,000, and the winning individual earns $5,000 for their inventions, and both are able to patent their products for free and present their invention and findings at an international innovation competition.

Last year’s winner of the prize was Roger Pincombe, third-year CS, for his DialPrice phone service that compares prices locally and online via a free phone service.

The Office of the Provost is even negotiating a contract for broadcasting the event and awards ceremony throughout Georgia and possibly nationwide via public television.

Both Smith and Allen devote their time – after their duties as psychology and microelectronics/microsystems professors, respectively – to bridging the student-to-administration gap by inviting all students’ opinions and concerns about their experiences in academia and research.

“My primary goal is to be responsive to whatever the concerns of students are,” said Smith, “I don’t ever want to hear that the upper administration doesn’t care what the students want.”

The Office of the Provost also has other provost positions to assist Schuster. The office of the Vice Provost for Distance Learning and Professional Education is filled by Nelson C. Baker.

According to the Office of the Provost’s website, “the Vice Provost for Distance Learning and Professional Education… is responsible for Georgia Tech’s Distance Learning, Professional Education, and English as a Second Language, or ESL, programs.”

The Vice Provost for Academic Diversity office is filled by Gilda A. Barabino. Barabino advises campus leaders in regards to diversity issues that are pertinent to Tech.

There are also several other provost positions. For more information visit the Office of the Provost website.