Dr. Cheryl Torsney was named interim provost and vice president of academic affairs this summer, replacing Dr. Laurel Garrick Duhaney who served in now-President Donald Christian’s absence.
Torsney, who previously served as vice president and dean of Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio for the past two years, assumed her position on July 15 and will hold the position until a full-time provost is named later this year.
“To be able to assist this fine institution and keep the trains running, as it were, during this significant transition in the life of the college is a gift to me,” Torsney said. “It also gives me the enviable opportunity to work with this terrific Cabinet, especially with President Don Christian, who comes to his new position with extraordinary experience, energy and vision.”
Torsney will serve as the college’s top academic presence and will oversee the five instructional divisions on campus while also serving as the chief personnel officer for academic employees.
President Christian said Torsney was appointed on a one-year basis and a search will begin early next week to begin searching for a permanent replacement.
“I went through a sequential process and talked to a number of individuals who have the background and experience and the interest in coming here for a one-year position,” Christian said. “I sought guidance from colleagues from across the system…and search consultants about who I might talk with to discuss that position, Dr. Torsney emerged as a very well qualified candidate for that position.”
Christian said a search committee is currently being put together and the provost search will begin before the school begins searching for replacements for the Dean of Science and Engineering and Dean of Education are done so those in contention for the position will “know who their boss is for the following year.”
“There is some merit for having the provost search happening several weeks in advance of the dean searches,” Christian said. “It’s a dynamic we are looking to sort out.”
In the meantime, Torsney said she has been charged with completing “discrete” projects during her tenure as provost – including working on standardizing the academic integrity policy with each of the college’s deans as well as working to “sharpen” the tenure and promotion regulations with the help of the Academic Senate.
“The big kahuna for faculty this year, though, is the issue of workload,” Torsney said. “How many hours should faculty be responsible for in terms of teaching, research, and service? One can only make change on these big issues through consultation and working through the channels of shared governance.”
Vice President of academic Affairs and Governance Ayanna Thomas said she hopes to work with Torsney over the course of the year on improving advising across campus and hopes for students to meet with Torsney.
“I am currently in the process of composing an advising survey for students that is similar to SEI’s,” Thomas said. “[Torsney] has been open to all of my ideas…she’s been wonderful, she knows me by name and I would say she would greet other students the same way. I hope she becomes the new provost at the end of the search.”
Besides the administrative and student-driven projects, Torsney said the current financial and budget climate will be a concern throughout her year in the position, but won’t hinder her too much in her goal of educating students.
“We’ll never return to the ‘business-as-usual’ of the nineties and before that. Other than finances, though, I don’t foresee many other obstacles to my achieving my goals,” Torsney said.
To achieve these goals, Torsney said her experience as an instructor, tenure-track professor, accreditation evaluator, consultant and mother will help her understand faculty concerns and issues of work-life balance as well as New Paltz in the larger context of higher education across the country.
“Call me Pollyanna, but when you’re dealing with people of goodwill, and everyone shares the same goal — educating our students and mentoring them for what awaits beyond New Paltz — obstacles, in the grand scheme of things, are almost inconsequential,” Torsney said.