Lawson Estridge / The Daily Gamecock

Q&A: Provost candidate John Wiencek talks diversity, research

John Wiencek, candidate for provost and vice president of academic affairs, discussed diversity and research with student leaders in the last candidate visit on Thursday.

Wiencek currently works as the executive vice president and provost at the University of Idaho. 

Wiencek is the third and last candidate to visit campus. Nancy Rapoport and William Tate are the other two candidates being considered for the position. A final decision will be made by university President Bob Caslen in late March.

What would be your number one priority as provost?

“I would say, you know, I'm very interested personally, in the diversity questions and educating, you know, our majority faculty, our white faculty, around the issues of diversity, to have more understanding of why this is important."

Then how would you plan to educate those faculty that you're talking about?

But they [faculty] also need to come together with our minority faculty, Hispanic and African American. And you know, I'm talking about all dimensions of diversity here. And we have to have real, honest conversations.”

What you can bring well to the institution that is not here already?

“I think part of getting things done is to get community to trust each other and to talk about the real issues in a very open and transparent way so that solutions can be brought to the table, and my leadership experiences over 20 plus years have allowed me to hone my skills, interpersonal but also organizational. You have to understand even when you're trying to look for or identify issues, sometimes you have to know where to go find them, right. So I think I bring a wealth of experience at a time when the university, like other universities, is going to go through some significant challenges.”

What attracts you to this university?

“It's been really on a positive trajectory in terms of student enrollment, student success. I mean, you are really national leaders in terms of University 101 and your student success initiatives, you've been recognized for those kind of things. Also, the research is really growing quite substantially through the years.”

How would you plan to promote USC’s research globally?

“So picking areas of distinction, hiring excellent faculty, supporting your grad students who often bring these creative ideas to bear and postdocs and staff. So this is about having the right people doing the right things. That's really what's gonna get you the exposure you need. You are known for several areas mainly in the student success side, your Honors College, your University 101, just student success initiatives in general. That being said, there's opportunities to prove that even, I think the retention rates need to go a bit higher and the graduation rates need to go a bit higher.”

What do you think would be some strengths that  you would bring to that [building relationships and focusing on shared governance]?

“I'm always trying to improve communication skills. People say I'm a really great communicator for an engineer … I think if you talk to the folks that I've interacted within the legislature, among the faculty, department chairs, the deans, the presidents and I've reported to presidents since I've been in Idaho plus another one before that, I think they would all consistently say that I was a very good leader and effective in my job.”

 Editor’s Note: Erin Slowey, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Gamecock, attended the meeting in her official capacity as editor-in-chief. Slowey did not vote or express any opinions about the candidate. 

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