On July 1, 2020, Dr. Mathew Johnson became Albion College’s 17th president. Along with President Johnson came a new series of individuals who comprise the college’s administration, each driven by the notion of student success. Though there are many new faces on staff, there are plenty of familiar names in new places.
Dr. Ron Mourad, Interim Provost
Dr. Ron Mourad began his twentieth year at Albion College with a new title: Interim provost. Previously a religious studies professor, Mourad received the position following the resignation of former provost, Marc Roy, in the spring semester.
“I spoke at length with Dr. Johnson about his vision for the college moving forward. I shared some of the things that I was excited about working on and some of the strengths I could bring into the position,” said Mourad, “I started July 1, and it’s been a whirlwind since then.”
In addition to the ordinary struggles of entering a new administrative position, Mourad has also had to work around the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had to re-register all students with a completely new system in a modular calendar. That was an enormous amount of work,” said Mourad. “In a way, it was like we had to redesign a whole new set of college processes for this situation rather than being able to rely on processes that evolved through decades of practice and experience.”
Despite the new structure COVID-19 presents for the college, Mourad has been able to use his nearly two decades at the college to his advantage in his new role.
“Coming out of faculty gives me a sensitivity to the ultimate purpose of the institution, which is to provide the best possible education for students, to meet student needs, and to create curriculum to meet student demand but also keeps in mind a liberal arts goal,” Mourad said. “I think someone who has recently come out of teaching has the ability to relate to students and their needs in ways that will produce good outcomes in academic affairs and good relationships with faculty colleagues that are indispensable to this work.”
Though he is only two months into his one year appointment, Mourad has been a part of multiple initiatives that he said he believes will help shape the future of the college.
“Some of the most exciting things in relation to academic affairs are new initiatives regarding the curriculum. There are several new degree programs in development,” Mourad said. “There are some new career paths that will become available through these degree programs if they are approved by the faculty that will provide for a whole new marketplace of students.”
In addition to new degree programs, Mourad said that he looks forward to new learning opportunities for students.
“Albion has had distinct institutes and learning centers for interdisciplinary learning and unique career preparation for many years,” Mourad said. “We’re going to build on that scaffold to create new internship opportunities, new genuinely mutual project-based learning for students in the community so that the liberal arts foundation that we apply will be applied by students in real life situations.”
Mourad’s work in the administration will not be limited to academic affairs. He said that there will also be changes in a sense of belonging on campus to look forward to.
“Dr. Johnson has asked every department and administrative unit to work on its own Blueprint for Belonging,” said Mourad. “Those Blueprints for Belonging aren’t just abstract statements to anti-racism, they are supposed to come with strategic action plans to eliminate barriers for low income, first generation, or underrepresented students.”
Dr. Shannon K. O’Neill, Associate Dean for Student Success
Shannon O’Neill a former Associate Dean of the College for Junior and Senior Studies, Pre-Law Advisor and the Bruce Donovan ‘59 Dean for Recovery and Substance-Free Initiatives at Brown University Dr. joined the administration in July as the Associate Dean for Student Success. Since starting her new position, O’Neill has been integral in the creation of the Sarah S. and Alexander M. Cutler Center for Student Success and Academic Achievement, which will be housed in the Stockwell Memorial Library.
In the creation of the Cutler Center, O’Neill is pulling together many of Albion’s previously separated resources.
“The Cutler Center will really be a comprehensive, co-located, one stop shop of a wide variety of resources,” said O’Neill. “Part of my belief about services or supports is that it really shouldn’t depend on who you come in contact with as to whether or not you find out about a support.”
In addition to pre-existing resources, O’Neill has also helped add new services to the Cutler Center. This partially includes physical resources, such as a redesigned loaner laptop program, and 90 new scientific and graphic calculators, which can be loaned out. This also includes personal services, such as a new financial advisor and fellowship advisor.
“There are some things that won’t be open for everybody, but you want to make sure that the widest possible net is thrown,” said O’Neill, “but with most of these, it’ll be helping students to make sure they’re the best applicants they can be.”
In keeping with accessibility, O’Neill has also helped implement the concept of specific student drop-in hours for advising.
“We’re going to be implementing right now a noon-to-two student drop-in hour,” said O’Neill. “We’re really trying to address things in that moment and students know that they’ll be able to talk to somebody.”
Above all, O’Neill is most excited to push the college to be the best it can be.
“I think there’s an openness to change what’s not working well or to elevate things that have been working well that maybe haven’t gotten the attention they deserve,” O’Neill said. “Take a look at if something needs to happen in order for students to be successful.”