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New provost joins campus

Dr. Susan Steele, the provost and dean of faculty, comes to Mills with a strong background in education and administration, and said she was attracted to Mills in part because she cares passionately about women’s education and what women do in society.

After a two year search for a new provost, Steele began as provost at the end of last semester. Ever since Mary Ann Kinkead’s contract was not renewed in 1999, Mills has been looking for a new provost.

Steele received her bachelor of arts in English and history from Whittier College and her doctorate in linguistics from the University of California, San Diego. Her administrative experience includes serving as Associate Vice President and most recently as Vice Provost at the University of Connecticut.

She said her largest challenge during her time here will be “trying to develop the profile of Mills that it says to the world this is who we are.” To accomplish this, Steele said she is going to help get the faculty focused to help raise funds to support endeavors and rework the general education, which is an issue that is already being worked on by the faculty and needs to be pushed through the final phases.

The Office of the provost and dean of faculty is responsible for the administration of all undergraduate and graduate academic programs. The Office oversees all academic recruitment, staffing, program budgets, and provides support to the faculty governance system.

Music professor David Bernstein said, “Being provost and dean of faculty is an extremely challenging position. It requires a balance between serving as an administrator and working as an advocate for the faculty.”

Barbara LiSanti said a provost should be a “strong leader who can convince faculty that some change is appropriate and useful.”

Steele said that working with Mills’ faculty is a priority on her list.

“People are working themselves to the point where they are stretched beyond all means, and I want to help them.”

Steele said one of the reasons Mills might have hired her was for her reputation for increasing enrollment at her last school, the University of Connecticut. She said that her focus right now is on retention. For example, she wants to work to develop an academic sophomore year that will help women’s transition into a major or academic focus.

“It has been good working with her,” Marianne Sheldon, interim assistant provost and director of graduate studies said. She has been working closely with Steele and said she is enthusiastic about the hiring of Steele.

“As various problems have arisen from the restructuring of the media studies program,” Ken Burke, chair of the dramatic arts and media studies program, said, “she has been extremely generous and quick to act.” However he added, “My encounters with her so far have been few.”

As for being a part of the Mills community, Steele said, ‘It’s great, it’s like coming home. I am impressed with the livelihood; impressed with the energy and commitment of faculty”