Dr. Alzada Tipton to be next provost & dean of faculty


Photo contributed by Dr. Alzada Tipton.

Lachlan Johnson, News Editor and Investigative Director

Dr. Alzada Tipton will join the Whitman College administration this summer as the Provost & Dean of Faculty. Her appointment follows a search to fill this position carried out this fall by a committee of trustees, faculty, and administrators.

The Provost & Dean of Faculty is the chief academic officer at the college, in charge of administering the academic program, and representing the college in the absence of the president. Tipton will replace interim Provost & Dean of Faculty Pat Spencer, who has held the position for two years since Professor Tim Kaufman-Osborn stepped down from the position in the summer of 2014.

Tipton will be coming to Whitman from Elmhurst College in Illinois, where she has served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of Faculty for a decade. She impressed many members of the search committee with a combination of insight and approachability.

“There are a lot of opportunities here for the next provost,” said Professor Melissa Clearfield, who is the Chair of the Faculty and was part of the search committee that chose Tipton. “We have a new president, we’re about to head into strategic planning, we’ve got a really young faculty … and we’re in a good financial position.”

58 percent of Whitman’s faculty were hired in the last ten years, and Clearfield believes Tipton is well prepared to support faculty in developing leadership, academic programs, and scholarship.

“With so many faculty hired so recently, there’s a very large cohort of [younger faculty] that are going to have to learn to become … the next generation of faculty leadership, and we want a provost who will know how to create structures to allow for that,” said Clearfield.

Clearfield was also impressed by Tipton’s warmth, her ability to build rapport and communicate, and her track record for advocating for and improving diversity among the faculty and student body at previous colleges.

No students were part of the search committee for the provost & dean of faculty position, but students did have the opportunity to meet Tipton and two other finalists at the end of fall semester and provide feedback to the committee.

“Every question we threw at her she had a wealth of experience to draw from. It was clear that she had a very defined image of what the provost looked like and felt very comfortable in that position, but also demonstrated a willingness to innovate and grow in a position at Whitman,” said ASWC President Jack Percival. “She felt like a very genuine person.”

As the head of student government, Percival asked finalists about their openness to collaborating with students. He believes Tipton will be open to transparency and discussion about major decisions.

“I wanted to see a provost who was interested in seeing students included in discussions about major decisions and initiatives that she was planning on taking with the curriculum, and someone who was interested in working with us on the initiatives we wanted to see,” said Percival.

Tipton believes the most important part of her position at Whitman will be supporting the faculty, and was drawn to Whitman in part because of its strong academic program.

“Whatever I do I’d like to be in support of the faculty and the things that the faculty are doing with students in the classroom and beyond,” said Tipton.

Besides its academics, Tipton was also drawn to Whitman by the college’s emphasis on sustainability, location in the Pacific Northwest, and President Kathy Murray’s recent arrival on campus.

Tipton had the opportunity to meet Murray last year at a dinner at Macalester College, where her son is now a sophomore. Murray previously served as that college’s Provost and Dean of Faculty, and she and Tipton discussed their experiences in college administration.

Next year, Tipton will work closely with Murray developing a Strategic Action Plan to guide Whitman College over the coming decade. Though her position does not officially begin until July 1st, Tipton will attend a retreat in June with Murray and the Board of Trustees to begin discussing what goals may be included.

“The provost has a lead role in the academic components of the strategic plan. She needs to help guide that process, and I feel really positive about her capacity to do that,” said Murray.