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Vicki Golich, Ph.D., shares parting words

The outgoing provost speaks with Katia Campbell, Ph.D., about her career highlights and advice to younger faculty members.

By Lindsey Coulter

June 22, 2020

Vicki GolichVicki Golich, Ph.D., will officially retire from her role as Metropolitan State University of Denver provost at the end of June. Golich has spent 45 years in academia, joining the MSU Denver leadership team in 2009 after 17 years at California State University San Marcos.

During her tenure as MSU Denver’s chief academic officer, Golich has made innumerable contributions to the Roadrunner community. Among those has been her steadfast commitment to the support, development and recognition of faculty, expanding sabbatical and professional-development opportunities, advocating for a diverse faculty, helping to establish the Wilton Flemon Postdoctoral Fellowship and more.

At the recent meeting of the President's Cabinet, Faculty Senate President Katia Campbell, Ph.D., invited Golich to reflect on her time as a Roadrunner.

Campbell: Provost Golich, what advice would you give to your younger self as a tenure-track faculty member?

Golich: Be sure you are picking your university just as much as the university might be picking you.

My first tenure-track position was at Pennsylvania State University, a Research 1 institution. I had a book published in my first three years and an article published in the top journal in my field, International Organization. That led to working with a NASA researcher on understanding how the information discovered by scientists about better, safer, faster, more fuel-efficient aircraft transferred to the engineers who designed and built airplanes – which led to many more publications. However, I loved teaching more than research. When I was hired at California State University San Marcos, I was a round peg in a round hole. I stayed for 17 years!

Further, get involved in aspects of the university community. Participating in shared governance will teach you a lot about how the university works. Sponsor student clubs and activities, and you’ll get to know students even better as people. Just like with our students, you will have a stronger sense of belonging and mattering.

Campbell: What significant changes have occurred in higher education since you started your career?

Golich: On the humorous side, when I first started teaching in 1974, we were still using mimeographs to type out and make copies of syllabi and assignments.

More seriously, we are now living through an era of continual defunding and underfunding of public higher education. Public higher education was once considered a vital public good but is now understood to be a private good, from which only the individual earning the degree benefits; hence s/he should pay the cost. In reality, entire communities and society at large – as pointed out by President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., in her TEDx talk last fall – benefit from an educated society. We’ve also known for decades that a well-educated populace is a prerequisite for our nation’s competitiveness.

This coincided with an increase in government-compliance mandates at both the state and federal levels, increased scrutiny by regional accreditors and increased need for new technology to support operations, teaching and learning – combined, these phenomena required additional personnel and equipment to meet the new demands.

At the same time, we experienced the increase in the wealth gap between white and nonwhite Americans resulting from the kind of structural racism most recently highlighted by the murder of George Floyd. Indeed, the expansion of university-education availability to a more democratized population – not just the white elites – through public, comprehensive, regional universities also coincided with decreased funding from the federal and state governments. And all of this occurred simultaneously with a significant change in workforce needs, making postsecondary credentials more important than ever – 75% of jobs now require this kind of credential.

In the early 1990s, the movement to assess what students had actually learned during their college tenure began in earnest. Student Learning Outcomes and classroom-assessment techniques took off. During this same time period, research focused on effective teaching and learning strategies, leading to the identification of active-learning pedagogy and High-Impact Practices. Even some R1 universities started centers that focused on the scholarship of teaching and learning, and – shock of all shocks – started to help graduate students become good teachers as well as good scholars.

In the mid- to late 1990s, the idea of teaching online became popular. Technology had advanced to the point that remote teaching and learning was within reach of more and more faculty – and did not require the same kind of hyper-expertise as earlier versions.

Campbell: What is the most important lesson learned?

Golich: Never make a promise you can’t keep. Therefore, I don’t make many promises!

Campbell: Can you share some career highlights?

Golich: Being selected as a Pew Faculty Fellow in International Affairs in 1992 and spending two weeks at Harvard University learning active-learning strategies using case studies. Earning faculty emeritus status as I left Cal State San Marcos. Being appointed provost here at MSU Denver, where I have worked hard to create an environment where everyone can pursue their personal and professional best. Expanding undergraduate research and establishing the Epic Scholars program. Having my colleagues – especially Bethany Fleck Dillen, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Parmelee, Ph.D. – secretly nominate me for AASCU’s William M. Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement and then being selected for that award. Also, the overwhelming number of kind words I have received as I prepare to retire and the award of administrator emeritus status.

Topics: Retirement

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