Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 3
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Bettison-Varga named Scripps president

Fritz Weis, President of Scripps College, congratulates his successor. Credit: Scripps College.
Fritz Weis, President of Scripps College, congratulates his successor. Credit: Scripps College.

On Saturday, Lori Bettison-Varga, the provost and dean of faculty, shared bittersweet news with the Whitman community.  

Effective July 1, 2009, Bettison-Varga will leave Whitman to become the president of Scripps College.

Bettison-Varga has served as the provost and dean of faculty since 2007. Prior to her arrival at Whitman, she worked as a geology professor, the chair of the geology department and the associate dean of research and grants at The College of Wooster, a liberal arts college in Ohio.

Her progression from provost and dean of faculty to president, albeit at another college, is common among high-level administrators; President Bridges served as the dean and vice provost of undergraduate education at the University of Washington prior to his arrival at Whitman.  

Bettison-Varga said she became a teacher to make a difference, and administrative jobs allow her to make a difference on a much larger scale.  

“As I got involved at Wooster, I realized that I very much like the big picture of an institution,” said Bettison-Varga. “And so it did seem a natural thing for me to get into administration because I really do like to help people do their work and fulfill their dreams,” she said.

As provost and dean of faculty, Bettison-Varga serves as “a sort of second-in-command after the president,” said Jed Schwendiman, the associate to the president.

According to Schwendiman, the provost and dean of faculty represents the faculty within the administration. Unlike the chair of the faculty, who is elected by the faculty, the provost and dean of faculty is hired by the president.  

Although Bettison-Varga’s time at Whitman has been brief, her impact has been tremendous.  

“She’s been fantastic here,” said Schwendiman. “It would be nice if we could have two of her: one to stay and one to go be president [for Scripps].”

She has worked to improve job satisfaction of junior faculty, untenured professors that are hired into the tenure track, and resolve faculty’s workload issues.  

Schwendiman credits Bettison-Varga’s success at Whitman to her creativity, charisma and enthusiasm.  

“She’s a very energetic and dynamic person, and she builds rapport with people very quickly,” he said.

It will be difficult to find a new provost and dean of faculty, but it can be done. After all, the administration did find Bettison-Varga.

During the one-year search prior to hiring Bettison-Varga, politics professor Timothy Kaufman-Osborn served as the interim provost and dean of faculty.  

Every transition is handled differently, though, and this transition is no exception.

President Bridges, the three division chairs, elected faculty members that represent each of the three academic divisions, and other interested faculty members are in the earliest stages of planning the transition to a new provost and dean of faculty.  

Sally Hooker, assistant to the provost and dean of the faculty, has experience with such transitions.

“Our goal is to give support for continuity and to make the changes as smooth as possible,” she said.

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