After a long and arduous selection process, SUNY New Paltz announced that William McClure, Ph.D., has accepted the offered position as Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs. He will take office July 6, replacing Interim Provost Barbara Lyman who has held the position since 2019.
A Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs is the chief academic officer in a college community, overseeing everything related to academics. About 70-75% of an upper-education institution’s affairs pertain to academics, which makes the Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs a critical role. The Oracle had the opportunity to speak with Dr. McClure about his new position, who explained that all work the Provost does “relates to students,” from updating curriculum to student engagement.
McClure has worked in public higher education for 25 years, serving as Dean at City University of New York Queens College for 10 of those years. Placing great value in the SUNY and CUNY system, McClure stated that he “really believes in public education.” With expertise in Japanese language and linguistics, McClure has worked in the education field for multiple decades as a teacher, scholar and administrator.
McClure’s years of experience include building a Japanese program at Queens College with limited funds, publishing five books and other peer-reviewed academic writings and working both across the United States and abroad in higher education. His leadership experience at Queens College ranges from serving as chair of the Department of Classical, Middle Eastern & Asian Languages & Cultures (2005 – 2011), special assistant to the provost for international affairs (2015-2021) and interim associate provost (2017 – 2018).
Viewing the Provost position more as an opportunity to work at an institution dedicated to undergraduate and liberal arts education in the public sector instead of career advancement, McClure is passionate about and admires SUNY New Paltz’s prestige and quality of education.
“New Paltz, in my view, is the best public liberal arts college in the state of New York,” he said.
Drawing upon past experiences with budgeting and working with public funds, McClure puts emphasis on not sacrificing quality because of a limited quantity of money. He explained how the way something is run or designed can and should change, but not because of sanctioned public funds: “You have to make plans, you have to have priorities, and you have to have things which you keep in mind, in spite of the fact that the resource has changed.”
Keenly aware of how to work with limits, McClure says stressing about budgets and state-provided funds is like the weather: “you can’t worry about it.” Instead, he finds great value in knowing how to take advantage of what an institution does have and figuring out how to make it work specifically for what is needed.
Commenting on student body dynamics at public universities, McClure expressed how diversity in lived experiences makes for a more productive learning environment. It is common for public institutions to have students who are first-generation college students, immigrants or children of immigrants and students who come from a wide range of sociopolitical and economic backgrounds. This, in McClure’s view, makes for a more engaging learning environment. “They’re really engaged and that’s the best kind of student,” he said. “A university is its people. And I’m really excited to meet and work with and figure out how to make it a better place and an interesting place.”
When it comes to the 2023-2024 academic year, McClure looks forward to meeting many new people and establishing connections with faculty and staff as well as students. He finds more value in understanding what the faculty, staff and students work for and want from the institution instead of assuming authority and implementing a disconnected agenda. Giving credit to all community members is incredibly important to McClure: “Faculty and students, who have been people who are really doing the hard work, they’re the ones who should get the credit.”
“I’m more of a lead-from-behind kind of person,” McClure explained. “But I feel that it’s usually more effective to give credit to people actually doing the work, not me just because I’m the Provost — that by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that much. But if you have faculty and students who have been people who are really doing the hard work, they’re the ones who should get the credit.”
Helping to design a newer strategic plan that is unique to the community and nature of the school is part of McClure’s future goals here at SUNY New Paltz. A strategic plan is a university’s governance mechanism that covers all initiatives of all kinds on campus. Despite the negative bureaucratic connotation it may get, McClure explained that a new strategic plan would be “a chance to engage the whole community, students, the staff or faculty, everybody can decide what are the priorities of the school.” Thus, updating the school’s priorities and outlooks fosters a greater sense of collaboration and community.
In the long-term, McClure’s goal is to maintain valuable education through student engagement. As much as he enjoys positive involvement, McClure finds great value in students finding fault and addressing issues. “You want people who are excited when people come here interested to try different things and then being upset when it’s not there and feeling comfortable enough to speak that way.” That, McClure believes, is invaluable when creating a campus community with quality education and a productive environment for student growth and success.
McClure is an Aries. Additionally, his Chinese Zodiac is a Tiger.