Faculty, administrators reflect on Folt’s tenure

Carol Folt will become UNC-Chapel Hill's first female chancellor on July 1, succeeding current chancellor Holden Thorp.

Interim College President Carol Folt will head to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to become its first female chancellor in June, marking the end of her 30-year career as a College professor and administrator.

Folt joined the biology department in 1983 and has served in senior administrative roles since 2001, when she assumed the role of dean of graduate studies. She became the dean of faculty of arts and sciences in 2004 and was appointed provost in 2009.

Her Dartmouth career culminated last spring, when she was selected as the first female interim president following former president Jim Yong Kim’s departure to lead the World Bank.

As an undergraduate biology professor, she was “totally committed” to both research and teaching, vice president for alumni relations Martha Beattie said.

Throughout her career, Folt has researched the health effects and consequences of oceanic mercury and arsenic. She served on federal scientific review panels and reviewed several scientific journals during her presidency.

Former College President James Wright said that Folt and her husband, biology professor David Peart, were leaders in the biology department since arriving at the College. He said her work in aquatic biology was distinguished.

Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson said Folt was a trailblazer for women at the College, as one of the first tenure-track female science professors who helped to create the Women in Science Project, which aims to address the under-representation of females in science, mathematics and engineering.

As dean of faculty, Folt worked to expand the size of the faculty and to make faculty pay more competitive.

“She worked really hard and was very disciplined,” Wright said.

Working collaboratively with Folt for the past six years, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Maria Laskaris said she has observed Folt’s “incredible energy and vision” along with her understanding of higher education.

“Folt’s constant reminder to us was to really think very broadly about what’s happening in the world around us and to understand forces and trends in higher education,” Laskaris said.

Folt’s nine-month interim presidency was marked by the Year of the Arts initiative, the celebration of the 40th anniversary of coeducation and Native American studies and the release of the strategic planning reports.

Folt handled her interim presidency with sensitivity and skill, Wright said.

“I can speak broadly that service as interim president is complicated,” he said. “She worked very hard to continue to build on some initiatives that were underway.”

Student Assembly President Suril Kantaria ’13 noted the structural difficulty of her presidency but said she executed her duties well.

“It’s a difficult position because she only had nine months,” he said. “Her responsibility was to keep the institution moving forward”

Faculty and alumni cite the strategic planning reports as a significant accomplishment of her short tenure as interim president.

Last month, nine working groups released their planning reports, which addressed the College’s international reputation as well as the interaction between graduate and undergraduate education.

Some faculty members, however, criticized Folt’s administrative style. Former music professor Jon Appleton, who left the College in 2005, said Folt was not qualified to serve as interim president.

He said faculty members often feared Folt and were afraid she would deny them raises or promotions.

“I think she’s a very ambitious person,” Appleton said. “I think she doesn’t give a damn about undergraduate education, and it’s a gift to Dartmouth that she’s leaving.”

As provost, Folt failed to increase unity among the faculty, and between the faculty and administration, Appleton said.

“The separation between the faculty and the administration was so wide, and it’s gotten wider,” he said.

Former Dean of the College Sylvia Spears, who left Dartmouth in 2011, praised Folt’s ability to see situations from many perspectives and make tough decisions. She cited Folt’s difficult budget decisions during the recession.

“I have to say she’s probably one of the most hard-working professional people I’ve ever worked with in my life,” Spears said. Students who worked with her lauded Folt’s energy and enthusiasm. Palaeopitus moderator Kristen Clifford ’13 said Folt is one of the most thoughtful and well-considered administrators that she has interacted with.

“I think she approached her presidency with the idea that she did have a finite period of time,” Clifford said, citing Greenways and the Year of the Arts events as successes for the student body.

In working with Folt, Kantaria appreciated her accessibility, enthusiasm and charisma. Kantaria said she took time to meet with him and other students.

“I always thought she was a very strong communicator she always wanted to hear what students had to say,” he said.

Her leadership through her administrative roles will be the defining aspects of her legacy, Wright said.

“Dartmouth will remember her as an experienced administrator,” he said.

Staff writers Iris Liu and Erin Landau contributed reporting.

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