Student Blog: News around Campus
A Warm Welcome to Dr. W. Richard Stephens, Jr ., Catawba College's New Provost
by Amanda Sowards '10
Catawba's new Provost, Dr. W. Richard "Rick" Stephens, Jr. has embraced Catawba with open arms and is ready to embark on a new journey as part of the Catawba community.
Dr. Stephens has two children. His daughter Ashlee, is married to Paul, a firefighter in Chicago. She is a cancer research coordinator at Northwestern University, where she oversees experimental clinical trials. His son Bill is graduating from a school in Boston with a degree in engineering. His wife, Deb, has not moved here yet. She is an elementary teacher and has stayed at their home in Maine to finish out the school year.
Dr. Stephens, who is excited and enthusiastic about being a part of Catawba, explained that, "What attracted me to Catawba was the quality of the people. There are many other schools where you can find people with similar credentials and academic programs that are also nearly the same, but they do not match the feeling and real sense of Community that Catawba provides. I was looking for a place where I could be part of the team, and Catawba was able to provide that for me."
Dr. Stephens reiterated, "I was attracted to the values that have been instilled in Catawba students for decades. I hope to bring the variety of experiences that I have had the good fortune to have from other institutions and contribute those to Catawba. It is not my intention to change things at Catawba fundamentally, but instead try to find the best way to improve on what has already been established.
"Our purpose, your promise, is something I really do value about Catawba. And I believe that through creative curriculum design we can build multiple path ways for students to pursue their interests and dreams," he explained.
One thing that Catawba is going to be focusing on is the reorganization of academic programs into individual schools. Dr. Stephens explained that Catawba is going to be appointing new deans for each school. These deans will be responsible for the organization of each school according to the needs of both the college generally and the schools specifically.
Starting next year the following schools will be established within Catawba:
- the Goodman School of Education and Physical Education
- the Hurley School of Arts and Sciences
- the Ketner School of Business
- and the Shuford School of Performing Arts
- The School of Evening and Graduate Studies will continue as a school.
- The deans of each school will be appointed largely from within the current faculty.
Dr. Stephens explained that it would be nice to see Catawba as an institution that has more critical mass, growing to a traditional student population of 1,200 or higher. When combined with a growing evening and graduate program, Catawba could then offer and support a wider variety of programs and perspectives in the curriculum as well as in the co-curriculum. “The students here have many diverse interests, and we are all working hard to provide resources to meet those interests," he said. Dr. Stephens wants to grow, but in moderation. "If we get too large of a student body then you may risk the personal connection that Catawba offers. But for now, growth is largely good for Catawba and over the next five to 10 years, I will work to enhance Catawba's positive qualities."
He noted some areas of interest would include increasing Catawba's technological sophistication and developing more overall institutional capacity, bridging the liberal arts and the professions, and giving emphasis to experiential learning and international travel.
Dr. Stephens wants all students to know that he is interested in what the students are interested in. "I hope students feel that I do have an interest in them, and an open door to any and all kinds of concerns or issues they have. While this certainly includes the academic program, understand that I know that college life goes well beyond the classroom. I have coached tennis and value what happens with our athletic programs and our co-curricular programs generally. If I have a contribution to make to Catawba, I hope it is evident not only in terms of what happens on campus, but becomes evident in the lives of students well beyond their stay at Catawba. I hope they look back on their experiences here and feel they were challenged to grow up, challenged beyond their levels of comfort, and continue to grow and become good and successful people. The opportunity for a member of the faculty or staff to have an impact on students does not always produce immediate or visible results.
Rather, the legacy of one’s work at Catawba is really seen in the lives of the students as alumni."
Dr. Stephens is adapting well to Salisbury. He has already deemed Ivan's and Romano's as two of his favorite places to eat. Stephens grew up in a small town where everyone really does know everyone else. "Salisbury is a small community where you can always run into people you know. When I worked in large cities, I missed that aspect of life; so it is nice to have that warmth of community and connection again. I like the history of Salisbury; the fact that there is a such history suggests that people have continued to commit themselves over the generations to Salisbury," he explained.
He shared that when he was a young boy he dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. "My dad was a coach when I was little, so I grew up in the gymnasium, and thought playing sports was the best outcome for me. Baseball was always my love."
One last bit of advice that Dr. Stephens has for Catawba students is, "Really take the opportunity to get to know the faculty and staff of Catawba, ask them questions, engage with them. The mark of a Catawba education is not simply the mark of details learned in class, though these are certainly important. Instead, it is the lifelong relationships you build with faculty, staff, and peers that are most important. These relationship are what really makes the difference at Catawba. If you are sitting back and not engaging in these opportunities, then you are missing out on the most important value we have to offer."
New Provost Is an Advocate of Always Having a Plan B
Excerpt from Dr. Stephen's Convocation Address, "Rick's Promise"
(Opening Convocation, Spring 2009)