Provost candidate says student success is first priority

Nancy W. Brickhouse, interim provost at the University of Delaware, speaks to students and faculty on campus on April 24, 2013 at the M.I. King Library at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Photo by: Jonathan Krueger

By Laura Shrake | @KyKernel

news@kykernel.com

The provost candidate forum continued Tuesday as the second contender, Nancy Brickhouse, discussed her plans for UK if she is selected as the new provost of the university.

Currently the interim provost at the University of Delaware, Brickhouse’s entire academic career has been at UD. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts from Baylor University in chemistry and a
Master’s of Science and Doctorate degree from Purdue University, Brickhouse has served at UD as a full professor, associate director of the School of Education, deputy dean and interim dean of the College of Education and Human Development, and deputy provost.

With three degrees and experience in many different academic positions, Brickhouse was attracted to the nature of UK’s land-grant university.

“I like that (UK) is a comprehensive university with a liberal arts core and a panoply of professional schools,” Brickhouse said. “It’s a very ambitious university with a lot of new activity going on and a desire to elevate the university further.”

Brickhouse outlined specific areas that she thinks her experience could bring to the university, including student success, elevated research, a values-based budgeting and enrollment management.

“In terms of student success, this should be at the center of our mission,” Brickhouse said. “We have to pay attention to what’s going on in the classrooms to make sure students are getting access to high quality teaching.”

The second area of interest to Brickhouse is research.

“Another key strength of the University of Kentucky is its research mission,” Brickhouse said. “This is also very important because research is, after all, academic work and the provost is the chief academic officer for the university. “

The third area Brickhouse emphasized was having a value-based budgeting system.

“The University of Delaware has recently gone through the same transition that (UK) is about to undertake,” Brickhouse said. “And that’s moving from a centralized budget system to a more decentralized one.”

Brickhouse explained that a centralized budget system is when all of the money is controlled from one central administration that decides what each college’s budget is. A decentralized budget is when you look at all the revenue sources, generally generated from the colleges themselves, and allow each college to keep the revenue they make but in turn must pay all their expenses and a tax back to central administration.

“What we have found is that it does help in terms of cost containment,” Brickhouse said. “It provides incentives for new revenue-generating programs and students are more likely to get the courses they need.”

However, Brickhouse also said that it will be a “challenging transition,” but ultimately it will be productive.

The final area Brickhouse emphasized was the importance of enrollment management. In her current position, Brickhouse is responsible for shaping the freshman class in terms of admission, tuition,
financial aid and other factors.

“We have had some notable successes at UD,” Brickhouse said. “Our freshman applicants were the most numerous in history last fall.”

Just like Brickhouse predicts that transitioning budget systems will be challenging, she also said that enrollment management is much more than just having a clever strategy.

“The bigger issue is (knowing) what students are coming here for,” Brickhouse said. “If I were honored to be the provost at UK, I would work with you to look at academic programs and refreshing them across the campus. Then develop student experience on campus that makes it easy for the admission staff to attract students to UK.”

When asked about how she would address the ever-increasing tuition and debt burdens for the students she wishes to recruit, Brickhouse said that this issue is not specifically a UK problem.

“We’re facing this issue across the country,” Brickhouse said. “It’s something that collectively we need to figure out how to get a better handle on. We need to think about how to use the resources that we have more efficiently.”

Brickhouse also emphasized several times the importance of transparency and working with all those on campus.

“This is important because you have to get out and listen to know what people’s concerns are,” Brickhouse said. “To know what the potential problems might be with the implementation of the new budget model for example, you have to have ‘ears on the ground’ to know what the nature of the problem is.”

Touching upon the experiences of her own schooling and, furthermore, her experience as an administrator, Brickhouse concluded by saying “There is nothing I would rather do than share with others the transformative power of education.”

Weird. Not once in this entire article did she indicate that “student success is first priority,” as the title suggests. Lazy reporting?

If, in fact, that is her first priority, she’ll be perhaps the only person in the administration right now who focuses on students. So that’ll be nice. I’m also really, really supportive of the idea that a woman get the job.