Dr. W. Richard "Rick" Stephens, Jr. will step down as provost of Catawba College at the end of this academic year. He has accepted a position as provost and academic vice president at Alfred University in Alfred, New York, and starts there July 1.
Alfred University, which today enrolls approximately 1900 undergraduates and 400 graduate students, was founded in 1836 by liberal, independent thinkers who placed high value on education for all citizens. It is the second oldest coeducational college in the United States and one of the earliest nineteenth century colleges to have enrolled African American and Native American students.
Catawba President Brien Lewis expressed the college's gratitude for Dr. Stephens' leadership during multiple periods of transition at the institution. "We wish Rick and Deb the very best as they begin exciting new challenges."
Lewis said he will move quickly to appoint an acting provost "so we begin the 2013-2014 academic year with that leadership in place."
Dr. Stephens joined the Catawba academic administration as provost in January of 2009. Accomplishments under his leadership include:
- The hiring of approximately 25% of the current full time faculty at the college;
- The creation of the college's Winter Term session for coursework between the spring and fall semesters and expansion of summer school offerings;
- The review, revision, and implementation of a new general education curriculum;
- The redevelopment of the School of Evening and Graduate Studies to include two off-site programs – one at Davidson County Community College and one at Central Piedmont Community College. The program at CPCC is a partnership with N.C.'s largest institution of higher education, with 75,000 students focused on business and early childhood education. The CPCC program was recently evaluated with highest of commendations by a visiting team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges;
- Fostering a focus on instructional technology and classroom pedagogy, employing both external consultants, as well as peer to peer faculty development. Includes funds raised to develop the campus' first industry standard video conferencing capability, and expansion of online delivery;
- In partnership with faculty, development colleagues, and friends of the college, gifts and grants in excess of $4 million were raised for use in academic program development in environmental science/sustainability and business, first generation student programming, classroom technology upgrades, internships, student and faculty international travel, a summer environmental summit for high school students, and a major National Science Foundation program for STEM education;
- New programming under development for recording arts in music, graduate degrees in education, business, and athletic training, undergraduate health science such as nursing, and further facilities upgrades in theater and classroom space.;
Dr. Stephens has also led Catawba's SACS accreditation efforts through fifth year interim reports, substantive change reports, focused visits, and the run-up to the college's decennial reaffirmation. Over the past three years, he has also served on two on-site and six off-site SACS review teams.
A native of the southern Illinois area, Dr. Stephens earned his undergraduate degree in sociology from Greenville College, graduating magna cum laude. He earned two graduate degrees from the University of Kansas, one in sociology and the other in philosophy.
He was awarded a Pew Grant in the 1980s to study socialist reform in the Soviet Union and economic reform in China. While in the Soviet Union, he was also assigned to conduct baseball clinics as a roving instructor by the International Baseball Association.
Dr. Stephens has served as an assistant professor, associate professor, professor and chair of the department of sociology and social work at Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois; as a visiting professor of sociology at Nizhni Novgorod State University in Nizhni Novgorod, Russia; as vice president for academic affairs and as academic dean at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Mass.; and as chief academic officer and dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Husson College in Bangor, Maine.
Married to wife Debbie, the couple has two adult children and one grandchild.