New Provost Michael Quick discusses future plans

Newly appointed Provost Michael Quick has taken on his appointment by preparing his vision for the upcoming term. In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Quick explained how his vision for the university is directly affected by the voice of students and faculty on campus. He stressed the importance of voice and vision — how the two interrelate and how he plans to utilize student and faculty interaction to model various plans and initiatives for the future.

Daily Trojan: How have your other roles at USC prepared you for your role as provost?

Michael Quick: Lots of different roles, right? I was the head of neuroscience graduate program for a while so I started to learn how to work with faculty, work with students, stuff like that. Even before that I was a scientist head of lab, I learned how to manage a budget.  Everything you do in your life is going to train you for the next thing that you do.

Most recently, I was the executive vice provost, which is sort of the number two person in the provost office, and the really great thing — working with former provost Beth Garrett and working with our president — they allowed me to be a part of everything going on. So you sort of learn everything  from hiring faculty or working with other deans on other projects or creating new programs, or student affairs — all of those things just to be a part of it and seeing how other people do it, how other people manage things. Everything you do in life is going to impact you for things you do going forward.”

DT: What kind of specific policies or initiatives do you hope to work on within the next year?

MQ: Certainly in [my time as interim provost], you want to make sure you’re carrying out the vision of the president, etc. and that of course will continue going forward. To be honest, I like the timing of when I was appointed to this position because I think we’re going to really jump in and start working on stuff.

I think there are a number of the things we’ve been doing going forward — we’ve got the big rollout of the new general education program starting in fall, that’s going to be a big deal. We are starting to work on residential education, thinking about what it’s going to be like once we have USC Village in place and how we can enhance the real opportunities and interesting programs, especially at the undergraduate level. We’ve been working all along on these types of things and we are going to continue to do that.

I’m going to work over the next few months talking to students and talking to faculty to get their input on what they feel are critical issues that they think we should go forward with as a university, so that when we hit the fall; we come out really running with sort of a big vision. I have my own ideas of where this university should go, but the great thing about being at a university is the fact that you are surrounded by really smart people all the time … and I want to learn from them, whether that’s students or faculty. Then we’ll put together a real plan for the kinds of things we want to accomplish going forward. So that’s sort of how I’m thinking about the next few months.

DT: How do you plan to engage with students and faculty?

MQ: For engaging with students and faculty, I guess my style is a little bit informal. My guess would be that what I want to do is to get out, as I have been doing, and work with … for example, I want to work with the new Undergraduate Student Government, Rini [Sampath, USG president] and colleagues, and I want to talk to them. But, let’s just get out and talk informally with students [to see] what’s on their mind. Same thing with faculty.

Are there specific things? I don’t want to come out of the gate saying, “I know what’s right for the university.” I want to hear what we can do together. But, I think there’s some really big themes.

I think because there is always a lot of talk about affordability, I want to change that conversation to be about value. What kind of value do we want to deliver as a university? Both out in the world, to make the world a better place, but also, internally. How do we make sure that we are providing value to the career that you want to eventually have? What kind of experiences can we give you on campus that prepare you for that?

Another big issue for us as a university is this issue of access. I am so proud of what this university does in terms of access for underrepresented minorities, first-generation college goers, which I was one, the way we allow so many transfer students to come to this university. We do great stuff and we need to do more of that. So, that is going to be a big theme.

The last thing I would say is, we are a great big university, it’s true. We have everything from the arts, to the social sciences, to the natural sciences, to the clinics, so we should be taking on the big problems of the 21st century. And if we are not doing it, then we are not holding up our end of the bargain as a great private research university.

DT: How can we work to better improve undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and how can we allow the university to lead students to different career paths they may have not had interest in before studying here?

MQ: We are starting to do some new stuff, like with the new general education program, saying that particular classes can count towards the major because right now, in the GE program, they don’t. That allows students to think of their general education program, differently than they used to. We’ve created some really interesting programs like the Iovine Young program, the World Bachelor [in Business] program, so these sort of unique experiences for students. We still need to get better about allowing a lot of interdisciplinary kinds of programs to be put in place and knocking down the kind of bureaucracy around that, so students can try a lot of things.

One of the things that we have been getting ready to roll out, I know under the leadership of Dr. [Gene] Bickers in the undergraduate office, is a career pathway program, so that we can tie student’s academic interests to their long term plans. Of course, as you know, one’s plans, at least mine, changed every 10 minutes. To understand that change and guide students in ways that say, “If you’re really thinking about this kind of career, these are the kinds of academic programs you may want to be thinking about.”

DT: What is your biggest goal for next year?

MQ: We are going to have GE rolling out, we are going to be working on the residential education programs — that is going to be huge. We will do work with the new beds coming in at USC Village, with how we are converting things into what we are calling residential colleges.

I just charged a committee that is going to working on that. That has the opportunity to really transform this university. We are doing a lot of stuff outside of the classrooms, along with inside the classrooms. So that students coming in, will have the opportunity to be a part of a group that is interested in these kinds of things, so those ideas may change and they may do different things, but they will be part of intellectual communities — partly in the resident halls, partly in other things that they do, I think it moves us more towards the idea that we want personalized education.

I think there should be an educational revolution in that we go from what we currently do to personalized education. Every student is going to have the opportunity to have a particular experience sort of tailored for them ,and as we get more data about students and what their interest are, we will be able to craft that.