The Roles of the Provost, Student Life on Campus: conversations with Dr. Anne Dema and Shelly King

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Dr. Anne Dema is the current Provost of William Jewell College, but what exactly does that entail? Oftentimes her role within the College is misunderstood. I have noticed that students have a tendency to blame Dema for some of the negative things on campus, over which she usually has no control.

According to her job description, the provost serves as the chief academic officer and is second-in-command after the president of the College. Some of the duties and responsibilities of the provost include providing academic leadership for the faculty; leading the College in the development of institutional pride; and developing long-term plans for every aspect of student life.

However, reading the job description is not the most helpful way to understand the role the provost plays on campus. In order to help decode the job description, I sat down for an interview with Dr. Dema.

For Dr. Dema, the average day consists of many meetings with those who report directly to her, such as department chairs and members of the Office of Student Life. She also has numerous meetings with other students and faculty members who make appointments with her. When Dr. Dema is not in meetings, she is likely working on her own projects. Examples of projects that Dr. Dema has worked on include Jewellverse duties, codification of the standard practices to verify faculty members’ certifications, and general policy developments such as data classification and security usage of the College.

 The Provost also plays an active role in shaping the academic policy of the College. One of the biggest goals that Dr. Dema has includes increasing the technological integration of the campus through Jewellverse. This integration began three years ago and, in my opinion, has been successful in elevating the role of technology in the Jewell learning experience.

 There are numerous obstacles in moving forward with her goals, though. According to Dema, change is always a challenge. Sometimes barriers in communication can hinder progress. Making informed decisions based on dialogue and discourse can also be a problem when communication is hampered. During our conversation, Dr. Dema noted that she prefers to guide and direct policy rather than directly administer it; that is usually left to faculty.

 While the Office of Student Life may report to the Office of the Provost, Dr. Dema does not exercise full control over what Student Life does. It is my experience that students frequently misdirect their discontent as a result of this confusion. Dr. Dema’s job is very focused, whereas Student Life’s job is much more broad and all-encompassing.

 For clarificaiton’s sake, the Office of Student Life performs a myriad of procedures here at William Jewell College. And, as broad and encompassing this description may seem, Student Life technically does indeed oversee all activities outside of the classroom. Still, Dean of Students Shelly King has noticed that the offices’ duties at the school are often mistranslated.

 “Learning to live in a community, you sometimes have to have systems and a process in place so that students better understand where the boundaries are. We help educate our students in this area,” King said.

While Student Life is a resource that every student should be fully aware of, there are some common misconceptions as a whole.

King insists that the office’s goal is to be of assistance to students, not a hindrance. If an obstacle is faced in the College’s setting, Student Life would like students to know that they do have to figure it out on their own. Instead of letting a problem ruin his or her college experience, Student Life encourages students to reach out for assistance, and suggests that the office can assist in either redirecting the student to the correct department or by talking through the problem to see what plans they can make to improve the situation.

Overall, the power of Jewell’s administration is decentralized. No one person or office has control over all college or student activities. Part of Dr. Dema’s role is to oversee certain faculty and staff affairs to make sure the College is represented in a positive manner and to check in with different departments on campus. And the Office of Student Life is involved in most non-academic, housing and disciplinary affairs.

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