Provost Carol Folt appointed interim College president
By Jenny Che, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, April 18, 2012
The Board of Trustees appointed College Provost Carol Folt as Dartmouth’s interim president following the Monday selection of College President Jim Yong Kim as head of the World Bank, Folt said on Tuesday. Kim will step down on June 30 after less than three years in office, the second shortest presidential tenure in College history. Folt will begin as interim president on July 1.
Folt, who is Dartmouth’s chief academic officer and the second-highest ranking College administrator, assumed the role of provost in 2009 after three years of serving as dean of the faculty. Her appointment marks the first time a woman has held the College’s top leadership position.
Folt said she is “honored and humbled” to lead the College as it begins the search for a new president and intends to draw on her experience as a faculty member and researcher to bring various groups together during decision-making processes.
“I have a pretty broad understanding of the kind of intensity and passion that people bring to this job,” Folt said. “To be put in this position and to be able to help build a positive thrust forward is something I take very seriously and that I’m looking forward to.”
Folt’s name will not be considered in the search process for a permanent president, enabling her to focus on the interim role, she said. An acting provost will be announced next week.
Folt received strong backing from all senior College administrators, according to Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stephen Mandel ’78. The Board rejected the idea of selecting an interim president external to the College ranks in facilitate a seamless transition.
“A large part of being successful in the interim role is having institutional knowledge and understanding how to get things done,” Mandel said.
In 2010, Folt began working with Kim to lead the College’s strategic planning process, which aims to support faculty, strengthen the College’s curriculum and improve student education in the wake of budget cuts and administrative restructuring.
Folt’s main priority as interim president will be to finish the strategic planning process as part of the long-term vision to maintain Dartmouth’s status as a preeminent institution, she said.
Committees led by faculty and deans have collaborated to target the College’s strengths and consider ways by which the College can improve its role as a visionary institution, Folt said. Among the topics these committees will continue to address are “pedagogy of the future” and the development of positive environments for scholarly innovation, she said.
The Strategic Planning Steering Committee, of which Folt and Kim are co-chairs, aims to approve all final recommendations from seven strategic planning working groups by December 2012.
Folt and Chief Financial Officer Steven Kadish led Dartmouth’s efforts to resolve the College’s $100-million budget gap under Kim’s direction, according to a College press release.
When she assumed the position of provost, Folt replaced Barry Scherr, one of several high-level administrators to leave the College in 2009. She has served as a senior administrator since 2001, when she was named dean of graduate studies. In 2004, she was appointed dean of the faculty of arts and sciences and in 2006 became dean of the faculty. She began teaching at the College in 1983.
Folt’s appointment comes on the heels of a series of resignations of female administrators, primarily in the Office of Pluralism and Leadership. In March, Nora Yasumura resigned from her post as assistant dean and advisor to Asian and Asian-American students. Former advisor to black students Samantha Ivery, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Colleen Larimore ’85 and former Acting Dean of the College Sylvia Spears all resigned last winter.
Kim applauded the Board’s appointment of Folt as interim president and her “sure leadership and intimate knowledge” of the College’s workings will facilitate her success.
“She is committed to strengthening Dartmouth’s mission of education and research in order to prepare students — and future generations of students — for a rapidly changing world,” he said in the press release.
Folt’s tenure as dean of the faculty received some criticism from prominent professors.
Jon Appleton, a former music professor at Dartmouth, previously told The Dartmouth that Folt was an “ineffective” administrator and that she contributed to a decline in the intellectual atmosphere at the College. Appleton called Folt a “puppet” whose sole interest was her “career in administration.”
Biology professor Roger Sloboda, however, lauded Folt’s achievements in her six years as dean of the faculty.
“She was a very strong proponent of strong teaching and research, always looking out for faculty salaries and benefits,” he said. “She was a good representative of the faculty in discussion with administration. She’s not the kind of person to advertise everything she’s doing and brag about it.”
Folt has also been met with disapproval from some undergraduates, who criticized the disconnect between the administration and students. Folt said she will have an “open door” policy for those who want to improve communication between the administration and the community.
“We need to talk to each other and appreciate that there are different viewpoints on how to achieve important goals,” she said. “We need to spend time listening in the buildup to a new president.”
Mandel said that the president’s role has always been a difficult one, with a range of responsibilities that must be addressed simultaneously.
“I think Provost Folt is extremely aware of the need to balance those things: to be accessible and out in front of students, to be in faculty’s classrooms and labs, to be visible to alumni and to manage the institution,” Mandel said.
The Board of Trustees will announce the chair of the presidential search committee that will select the College’s 18th president on Thursday, according to Mandel, who said he expects the search process to go smoothly given the short time since the last search and the resolution of the Board’s internal political issues. During the search for Kim, the Board struggled with a divided alumni base and a dispute over Board membership, issues that Mandel said have been resolved.
Kim’s background in medicine and health made him an unconventional College president and the College may attract a diverse pool of applicants in this year’s search as a result, Mandel said.
“Typically candidates come from the ranks of academia,” Mandel said. “I think the fact that President Kim was an out-of-the-box candidate will enrich the pool of people we have this time.”
The Board will continue to act “quickly and decisively” in this period of abrupt change to ease the transition between presidents, according to Mandel.
“We’re moving quickly with the search and making other senior leaders of the College feel supported in their roles to lower the level of anxiety,” he said. “It’s important to bring that level of confidence and certainty to people at a time when the leader of the institution is leaving in a manner that was not planned.”
An expert on metal toxicity, Folt has explored the effects of mercury and arsenic on human health, salmon restoration and global climate change in her academic career. In 2010, Folt was named to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Folt graduated with a bachelor’s degree in aquatic biology and a master’s degree in biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She received a PhD from the University of California, Davis.