On Dec. 14, 2022, Alma College announced that effective Jun. 1, 2023 Dr. Sean Burke will be the new Provost and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs at the College.
The announcement came after a months-long search that saw many different candidates apply for the position. The application process included meetings with both faculty and students on campus as well as receiving a campus tour.
Currently Burke is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies as well as an Associate Provost at Luther College, a liberal arts college located in Decorah, Iowa. He has also served as a professor at the college since 2007.
Burke will replace the outgoing interim Provost Dr. Jamie Diels who has held the position for the duration of the 2022-23 academic year. Dr. Diels will be returning to her previous position as Associate Professor of Communications following her tenure in the role.
One of the focuses Alma College has set forth to set itself apart from other colleges and universities is its unique approach to education by coupling both traditional in the classroom learning with experiential study. Much of that approach starts with the provost.
“I am drawn to a specific kind of education that combines foundation in the liberal arts with attention to vocation [including] both how you prepare for work but also how you prepare for being intentional about the rest of your life,” said Burke.
The Provost is an important position at Alma College because they are the individuals who ultimately decide which classes are offered at the college. In addition, they also make important decisions such as which programs are added and cut each academic year.
The provost’s office is located on the first floor of SAC closest to the Learning Commons. Their hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Students can utilize the office for various academic related inquiries including things related to completion of their major or minor, course scheduling, and credit bearing internships. The office also helps professors when developing course schedules for upcoming semesters as well as developing major tracts.
Some of the more recent programs to have been added at Alma College include the addition of an engineering major as well as the addition of two graduate programs. The first graduate program added was a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative writing and the second was a Masters of Science in Communication and Technology.
“Are there majors that could be reimagined, are there maybe some that [are not] drawing as many students as they used to, but could if they were reimagined,” asked Burke in response to what programs he saw being worked on in the future.
Alma College has cut multiple majors within the last few years including Anthropology, Religious Studies, French, and German, citing a lack of interest in the programs.
Dr. Burke also said he hopes to look into adding programs that would help students who are transferring in with some previous college credit but have not yet completed their undergraduate degrees.
Alma College has sought to create a more welcoming environment for transfer students within the last few years including offering competitive scholarships and creating a transfer-specific living learning community.
One of the first things Burke hopes to work on during his first six months in the position is connecting with students and becoming a part of Alma College’s campus community.
“One of my priorities is to be a presence whether at Student Congress, athletic events, or other things to just really focus on connecting with students,” said Burke.
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