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Xavier Magazine | March 30, 2017

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Head of the Class

[Extended web version]

NAME:  Scott Chadwick
TITLE:  Provost and Chief Academic Officer
PhD in communication studies, Kansas, 1994
MBA in finance, University of Kansas, 1986
BS in psychology, University of Iowa, 1984

Canisius College 2007-2011
• VP for academic affairs; mission and identity officer; professor communications
Creighton University 2003-2007
• AVP for academic affairs
Iowa State University 1997-2003
• Assistant professor
Oregon State University 1994 – 1997
• Assistant professor

Xavier: You didn’t take the traditional path into higher education, spending six years in the corporate world first. What made you decide to get into education?
Chadwick: “When I was at Sprint, I longed for something more. I wanted to take all the good parts of my previous jobs—making the organization run well according to its goals, being financially responsible, making sure the workers are stable and safe and are getting what they should be getting—and put them together. So, I decided to get a PhD so I could form my own consulting company. But once I got into the doctorate program, I fell in love with teaching. I said, ‘Let’s see where this leads me.’ ”

Xavier: It led you, first of all, to eight years at Jesuit institutions. That’s a lot different than the corporate world. Was it hard to adjust?
Chadwick: “In the interview process at Creighton, they asked questions about servant leadership and Ignatian charisms—finding God in all things, contemplation in action, things of that nature. They worked those things into the questions, and I found literally a sense of peace come over me. I did not know those phrases, but they referred to where I was coming from. It just felt right. So I translated my language into their language, and it had the same meaning. As I developed professionally and spiritually over these past eight years, the fit has gotten better and better. It is so applicable, so forceful for good, open, inclusive, and a great way of being.”

Xavier: So how do you merge your experience in the competitive world of business with this?
Chadwick: “I believe within the Jesuit system that it is very easily possible to be competitive without being ruthless. You can be driven and loving. You can be focused on results and other-oriented. I also believe that in the Jesuit way of proceeding, it is not a zero-sum game. Part of our job here is to expand that which is possible. If we can reach out to more people and offer education to more people who need it and influence the world in different ways than we are now doing, while continuing to do what we are doing, it is a good and appropriate thing. We can expand the domain of goodness.”

Xavier:Your decision to get into education also led you to your new position. Did you ever think it would lead you to becoming a provost?
Chadwick: “No. I did not aspire to be provost. I do not aspire to any position. What I aspire to is the work that a provost is blessed to do. This kind of work is fun. You get to learn the strengths, hopes and desires of so many people. We, as a community, get to interact with and help each other advance our lives and work to achieve our shared goals. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

Xavier: Now that you are provost, what are you bringing to Xavier to push it to the next level?
Chadwick: “I think it is a combination of skills. It is a willingness and ability to listen to people, what they are saying and not saying, as well as the ability to read organizational systems and treat the organization as an entity. Being able to analyze the internal dynamics, as well as the external factors, and see how it all interrelates. You can build the best organization structurally, but if you do not have great people and you do not care for them, it is not going to matter.”

Xavier: That sounds like where your corporate background will be a great benefit—from the management standpoint.
Chadwick: “One of the particularly valuable aspects of higher education is the interplay of the management function and the governance function. When done well, I think it is one of the best systems you can find because it allows many people to have input into the planning and decision-making processes. If people are willing to come to discussions with open minds and open hearts, it becomes a great system based on trust and mutual respect in which you engage in dialogue and discussion and move at an appropriate pace to come up with solutions for the organization and its people. You sometimes see this in high-functioning teams in companies. You can see it in some forms of matrix organizations within organizations, but they tend to be fleeting. They tend to be task or function specific, while here it is actually possible to merge this as an ongoing way of proceeding.”

Xavier: Is there anything the University needs or needs to change to get to where you think we can be?
Chadwick: “Coming at it tangentially, the biggest need academically is to make sure the faculty are resourced appropriately for the learning goals they have set in their curricula for the students. Other than that, it is too early for me to say. But I can tell you one of the things that is absolutely crucial is to understand what the University is doing to maintain the liberal arts tradition and the power of the core curriculum. Intellectually that is such a foundational part of the institution and the students’ experiences that we have to keep that strong. From that everything else grows.

“I know the faculty will be looking at how well the core curriculum is helping students achieve their learning goals. They will do that through some forms of assessment and then will feed that information back into the system. So if we find that the core curriculum can be no better, than I would say leave it as it is. But I think all systems can be improved. As the world changes around us, we need to adapt to it in some way. And it is key that the faculty are a key driver of curricular change with support from the rest of the university community.”

Xavier: Any specific changes you want to share?
Chadwick: “There are ideas I have from my interaction with faculty, staff and students so far that I think we could use to optimize some systems that would be beneficial to everyone. But I really want to come here and listen to people first and find out what they see as the strengths and obstacles. Then, by bringing people together I think we will find that we can see some things differently, finding opportunities and synergies that we have yet to tap into. I think that will be not necessarily new but refreshing to people.”

Xavier: There’s been a lot of talk about growing enrollment—can we make the numbers to pay for all our growth? Are we getting too big? So what’s your view? Can we grow and still maintain all of the personal, small-school benefits that Xavier is known for?
Chadwick: “Xavier’s uniquely placed to do that. In part you do it by aligning your enrollment management strategies with things that faculty and student life and leadership are doing. There are all these things we are doing here that make this a wonderful place to be, but we need to figure out precisely what they are. I think people know it intuitively, but we as an organization need to know it specifically. We really need to identify and celebrate those things that are done individually and in small groups and scale them university-wide. Student retention, for example. There are plenty of ways students are being engaged by faculty and staff through research, service learning, direct service, and myriad other activities. Imagine we said, ‘Let’s make student retention an institutional priority, growing those processes and activities we know work and expanding them across the entire university.’ To do that we will need discussions among faculty and staff and students to ask people to share their stories, describe what is working and why, and recognize things that are disconnected. This dialogic approach allows everyone to have a voice as we enact change that grows from the strong foundation of our existing culture. As we do this and share information internally, we can build this into our external communications to more fully inform prospective students and institutional partners how we and they fit each other.”

Xavier: In the last issue of Xavier magazine, we wrote about Xavier’s venture into online learning. Will that continue?
Chadwick: “I fully expect that. The key with online learning is to make sure we design it so we can maintain the academic rigor and support for students that they would have in any other form of instruction—small group, lab, lecture, active learning. Online is just another venue that is open to a number of different teaching and learning styles. There is a lot of research that shows that, when designed well, online instruction can be as good, or oftentimes better, than on-ground instruction. That is particularly true if it is a hybrid course where you have a combination of face-to-face instruction and online instruction.

“People new to online learning are somewhat surprised at how much interaction can be designed into the processes. It is not the old correspondence course where content was dumped onto a cassette tape. It is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous interactions between students and teacher, students and other students, and students and content. All three of those things have to be there. Online learning combines student reading, writing, thinking, and researching and allows students to bring it back to the virtual classroom in intentional and pedagogically sound ways.

“We can use online learning to reach out to a broad spectrum of people, offering this education to as many different people as fit our programs and capacity. This is particularly true of non-traditional students, whether they are a little older or are still working and cannot afford the family time or the money to be here at a concentrated period of time. With online instruction, we can design academic programs around their needs, and up to our standards. I see that as a very Jesuit thing to do.”

Xavier: One of the challenges for an institution like Xavier, though, is it doesn’t just teach academics but also ethics and values. How can you do this online?
Chadwick: “It is possible, and research will show this as well, that values can be taught, learned, and ultimately enacted through online education. It is challenging, because values tend to be ineffable. But it is a matter of designing the course that way. I can guarantee you if the academic rigor is not there and the Jesuit values or Ignatian charisms are not there, I am not going to support it. Having said that, I know the rigor and values can be there. So, it is just a matter of how we get there.”

Xavier: At Canisius, you led the effort to include a social justice component in all new programs. Can we expect that here?
Chadwick: “I’d want to talk to faculty about that, but at Canisius, what I specifically did was say that for every new program—minor, major, doctorate, certificate, across the board—we have to have an active social justice component. Which means you cannot just talk about it, you have to have the students engage it intellectually and then go do something. And while I am convinced it made the programs better, and more Ignatian, the other consequence is we got faculty talking about social justice and how it relates to the intellectual enterprise that is teaching and learning. In addition to the social justice component, every program had to show how it was mission-centric through people’s behavior and how that behavior could be assessed. Faculty, staff, and students really embraced the focus on social justice and mission.

Xavier: There’s been a lot of talk about expanding health-related programs, and possibly adding a doctorate in education. Can we expect growth in these areas?
Chadwick: “We know that the allied health industry is in a significant growth pattern and ratcheting up its required credentials. For example, the vision of the American Physical Therapy Association is that by 2020, physical therapy will be provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy (see The transitional doctorate in physical therapy (t-DPT) is a degree that some schools offer to meet that demand. Look at the life sciences and at the growth in knowledge and medical advances that have arisen through the work of the human genome project. Pharmacology is advancing to the level of molecular pharmacology, so it is not just the pharmacists we need, it is all sorts of other people to do case management and clinical trial reviews and the myriad things that wrap around the industry. All sorts of degree programs can come out of that. But with any degree program, what is important is that we add it when the program is appropriate for us and because it fits with our mission. It really has to be mission-centric. It has to fit with and advance the Xavier brand. There are a limitless number of programs that are possible, but what programs fit with us? That is the key question to be answered.”

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