SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Philip Way now has the keys, a telephone number and an email address to the Provost's Office in Old Main and is settling in to his new position as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Slippery Rock University.
Way's first day on the job was Feb. 4 following a nationwide search to replace William Williams who retired last Friday after 31 years service.
Way said he spent his first week shadowing Williams.
"One of the good things in coming here when I did was that I overlapped for a week with Provost Bill Williams and that was enormously helpful because every day we would meet for several hours, and he would help me understand key features of the institution and how things work to make my job easier, so at the end of the week I was much more confident that I understood how to get things done - better than I would have had I been here on my own trying to figure things out."
"The first week was spent with him and I have tried to meet all of those people who directly report to me during my first two weeks. I am hoping to attend all of the meetings a provost attends and learn the processes one goes through, for example to get curricula approved by faculty, how to hire faculty and other operational kinds of things," he said.
"After I have learned the operational things, I will be in a good position to embark on more strategic level thinking and execution," Way said.
The provost is the chief academic officer of the university, responsible for the formulation and implementation of academic plans, policies and priorities, information technology and for the allocation of resources to carry these matters forward. The provost provides the leadership required to achieve the highest standards in teaching, scholarship, services and creative activities while working closely with faculty, administrators, staff and students to ensure excellence in the University's academic programs.
Asked about SRU's long-range strategic plan, "Reaching for 2025 and Beyond," the new provost said, "I think it is a very detailed plan of where the institution wants to go. The date on the plan is 2025. I think we have enough to occupy us for about a decade."
"The key issue for me is deciding what the priorities are going to be, and then mobilizing faculty, staff and student support around the things we think most important and have those groups work on implementing, over time, the vision of the plan," he said.
Explaining his top priorities, Way said, "I think the main thing is to continue to enhance the learning experience of students; that means to continue to improve the facilities for learning; we need to continue to enhance the pedagogies we use; and in particular, I like the emphasis on experiential learning of various kinds, including internships, co-ops, study away, academic research, service learning and undergraduate research. Those so called 'high impact' practices make a big difference in student success."
As for his initial view of campus, Way said, "I think the thing that strikes me most is the culture on campus which appears to be a cooperative culture involving faculty, staff and students and everyone seems united in wanting to make things better and that is going to be very important in implementing the strategic plan. It cannot come from above; It has to be the will of the employees, the students at the University. They all have to be involved in the implementation."
In a first blush look at SRU's programs and plans, Way said, "It is a much more general appreciation of what Slippery Rock University stands for than any one particular program. It would be hard to isolate one program, in any case, because we have a national reputation for so many things - in the curriculum, plus what we have achieved in retention, recruitment and sustainability, being a best place to work, service learning - it is a very impressive list of accolades SRU has won."
Since arriving he has also toured the region, including attending SRU's recent dance concert at Butler County Community College, which he called "highly enjoyable," and visiting downtown Pittsburgh in search of televised soccer games.
When not involved in academic issues, Way said he likes to cook, "especially international dishes" adding he would soon visit Pittsburgh's "Strip District" for ingredients.
Way joins SRU from service as associate provost for undergraduate programs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
He was selected to lead SRU's academic programs following a distinguished record of teaching, scholarly research and professional accomplishments. Way was chosen from a group of six finalists.
His other experiences include leadership in the Provost's Office at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, service as senior associate dean of the university's College of Arts and Sciences and as director of the University of Cincinnati Honors Scholars Program.
Way earned his master's degree and doctorate from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. He earned his bachelor's degree from Selwyn College, Cambridge University.
He held a research position at Nuffield College, Oxford University. Later, he was a Frank Knox Memorial Fellow and a visiting fellow at Harvard University and has earned lifetime certification as a senior professional in human resources from the Human Resources Certification Institute.
As associate provost at UAB, Way was responsible for the core curriculum and the University's Quality Enhancement Plan, its academic programs and policy, all aspects of the student academic engagement plan and the strategic enrollment management plan, including retention initiatives and student success strategies.
He oversaw academic advising in pre-nursing, pre-health and exploratory studies and handled UAB's academic outreach in community college relationships and distance learning as well as national and international scholarship initiatives.
Way participated in the university's strategic planning, technology and classroom renovation strategies, university accreditation and assessment, branding, fundraising and NCAA accreditation work.
At the University of Cincinnati, Way was responsible for strategic planning and execution, and the evaluation and assessment of the honors program, recruitment, marketing, branding and retention as well as development of the associated curricular and co-curricular activities. Under his leadership, the program grew from 750 students in 1998 to 2,200 in 2005, while simultaneously maintaining quality and increasing diversity. He instituted a first-year experience to increase student retention and success.
At UC, Way was a tenured economics professor in its Center for Organizational Leadership. His areas of concentration were strategic human resources, leadership and the economics of human resources.
He has also been involved with program accreditation, the development of international partnerships, including programs similar to SRU's spring semester international study courses and student exchange partnerships, and the integration of technology into the modern day classroom as well as expansion of online courses.
Way has been involved with both traditional-aged and non-traditional aged students as well as enrollment management involving both the recruitment and access aspects of enrolling in college.
He has overseen the UAB Strategic Enrollment Management Initiative along with such programs as the Summer Bridge program, the freshman peer mentoring program and first-year experience courses, advising and an early-alert system to aid students having difficulties.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.