Jeanette Altarriba, one of the finalists for Miami University’s provost search, participated in an open forum on Dec. 2.
Altarriba is the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY Albany), where she also teaches courses in the department of psychology.
Altarriba has worked at SUNY Albany for 30 years and has held various positions during her time there, including interim and associate dean of CAS, chair of the department of communications, chair of the department of psychology and vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.
Altarriba is passionate about student research. As vice provost, she developed the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement (CURCE). CURCE helps match students to faculty interested in similar areas of research. It also provides workshops, training sessions and conference opportunities for students pursuing research.
“I often say without that experience, I can’t conceive the idea of having been moved to an academic dean and dean of a college without having had the student side of it,” Altarriba said.
Moving out of the vice provost role and into the dean role, Altarriba shifted her focus from students to faculty.
As dean of the largest college at SUNY Albany, Altarriba oversees curricular programs and faculty in her day-to-day agenda, and she is working on modernizing CAS after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of conversations are being had about the welfare of our faculty and how we move forward,” Altarriba said. “Post-pandemic looks nothing like pandemic or pre-pandemic.”
Audience members then asked Altarriba specific questions, which have been paraphrased below with her responses.
Q: Why do you want to be a provost, and why here?
Altarriba: “I’m glad I’ve had all these variety of experiences, but what’s the next level that I can put that in and challenge myself to keep going? … So from a personal side, that is the moment where I am … One of the things that really attracts me about this [institution] is the notion of the teacher-scholar and the model that you have … I do appreciate the teaching piece, the student piece, and what that means, so I’m attracted to having that model.”
Q: Can you talk about revitalizing humanities education and its place in a liberal arts education?
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Altarriba: “Yes, [less money] might be going to the humanities because they might not be, in the eyes of the administration, generating the kinds of returns that other departments are, and they may not have the number of students, but what happens is morale starts to be very much affected. One of the things I did this year was put in an incentive program in the humanities ... Humanities faculty … submit [research] proposals to my office … and we’re figuring out a system to review them and to be able to afford one or more faculty a course reduction for the work that they want to do.”
Q: Given that our society is so technologically and digitally driven, do you think there’s a place for engineering and computing training in a liberal arts education?
Altarriba: “I think we have to head that way … We’re going to see a moment in education that, if we don’t have [engineering] in there somehow, we’re going to have to. I think there will be a demand because of the way technology is headed, but the question is, how to do it, and what way to do it … It’s not based on what I want or I like or I think; it’s based on what I see coming.”
Q: What are your long-term professional goals? Do you see the provost as a final step for you, or do you hope to be a president?
Altarriba: “I don’t know that I would not think about the presidency, but the move that I make now as a provost, let’s see how that goes. I’m not opposed to it, but I’m not going in thinking that way.”