The first of three finalists in the search for a new provost and executive vice president at Utah State University took the stage Wednesday afternoon in an open forum.
Paul W. Layer, Dean of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), answered questions from the audience about his plans and goals he would have as provost.
The other two candidates, Laura Woodworth-Ney and Douglas A. Freeman, will do the same Sep. 25 and Oct. 18, respectively.
Layer talked about the importance of language programs, global engagement opportunities such as study abroad, civil discourse and challenging students to listen to other points of view.
Layer also expressed his excitement at the prospect of living and working here. “It’s lived up to its reputations and my expectations in a very significant way,” he said of USU campus. And as a professor of geology and geophysics since 1989, he expressed his interest in moving to a part of the country with “really exciting geology.”
Layer said that after his years of experience in the academic and administrative field as a professor and dean, he is ready to take on the challenge of a provost role. He sees it as an opportunity for personal growth.
He believes recruitment and retention of students at a university is everyone’s job — advisors, students, faculty, staff, and administration.
Something he would like to see is every program building a learning community and support system. Every year in the geology department at UAF, Layer and another member of the faculty would take a group of new students on a four day field trip. As the students hiked and camped together, they bonded and built a community. He wants every program to come up with ways to do the same — build a learning community and a support system, and help students develop relationships with their colleagues early on.