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As Middlebury’s chief academic officer, Susan Baldridge is working to build connections across the institution.

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A New Provost for Middlebury

March 16, 2015


MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — For Susan Baldridge, Middlebury’s newly appointed provost, the academic mission of the institution will be shaped in part by the connections she and others build across its many schools and programs.

Middlebury President Ronald Liebowitz and President-elect Laurie Patton jointly announced Baldridge’s appointment in an email to faculty, staff and students on Jan. 30.

As Middlebury’s chief academic officer, Baldridge, a professor of psychology, will provide strategic and operational leadership for all academic programs of the institution, including Middlebury College, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, the Middlebury Language Schools, Schools Abroad, the Bread Loaf School of English, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the School of the Environment.

Baldridge relishes the opportunity to support the development and enhancement of the relationships among Middlebury’s many schools and programs. “The challenge is to get the balance right,” she says. “We want to be able to come together, build connections, think about how we can all benefit each other, while also ensuring that each entity retains its own unique identity and mission.”

Having served as dean of the faculty and then as vice president for strategy and planning at Middlebury during the past decade, Baldridge has had a unique vantage point to both observe and contemplate collaborative opportunities at Middlebury. “But it isn’t just my job to be the hub of the wheel, bringing all of these ideas to the relevant parties,” she adds. “It’s incumbent upon all of us to collectively imagine the possibilities.”

One of Baldridge’s first acts as provost—her tenure officially began on February 15—was to bring together the academic heads of all the schools and programs for a meeting in which she challenged them, as a team, to forge connections and think about what it means to be a global institution.

Some of these collaborations—say, between the Language Schools and the Schools Abroad—have been going on for decades, she points out. “But now we can approach institutional collaboration with a little more intentionality; we can take advantage of many more opportunities that will benefit both the parts and the whole.”

One of Baldridge’s early goals is to empower all disciplines to think creatively about how they might contribute to a truly global educational experience for students.  “It’s easy for us to imagine what this means in some disciplines, such as the languages or global health,” she says. “But what does it mean for my colleagues in psychology or in the math department? What does a global education mean for all our students?

“This is an expansive opportunity for all of us.”

Baldridge says that she can’t imagine doing this job without having an innate understanding of what matters to faculty and students—an understanding that comes with more than 20 years of experience as a professor at Middlebury. “When I say an expansive opportunity for all of us, I do mean us,” she says. “This is a collaborative process, and I see my role being very much that of a partnership with my colleagues and with the students in enhancing the academic program.”

She says that she will continue to teach teaches courses on social psychology, human sexuality, the psychology of gender, and psychological statistics. “Teaching is why I became an academic, and I believe it’s really important to stay connected at the ground level. The most important work we do is educating students; it’s why we exist.”  

In addition to her role as provost, Baldridge will continue to serve as the senior administrative officer for the strategy committee of the Board of Trustees. She sees the tie between the provost’s responsibilities and the strategic direction of the institution as a natural fit. “Our strategy is tied to our academic programs—it’s what we do with them that will make the difference as we move forward.” 

The appointment of a provost with oversight of all academic programs at Middlebury was among the main recommendations the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) made when it most recently conducted its decennial reaccreditation review of Middlebury—a process Baldridge led. Looking forward, say ten years, NEASC will return to Middlebury for another decennial reaccreditation review. What might they find? 

“I would expect that in that time we will have maintained our commitment to the kind of intensive faculty-student relationships that are at the core of our mission, and we will have also embraced the connections across the institution that I believe will come to define a global education in the 21st century.”

When reminded that the visiting reaccreditation committee had expressed surprise at the breadth of Middlebury’s offerings, Baldridge chuckles and adds: “Yes, in ten years I hope that people won’t be astonished by the great complexity and vibrancy of our programs. It shouldn’t be a surprise to us, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to our many audiences.”

By Matt Jennings; Photo by Brett Simison

3 Comments

Glad to see a fellow psychologist appointed. However, one of our problems in the cost of higher education is the burden of administrative structures. Is Middlebury such a large corporation that it needs a President and a Provost? There is already a competent administrative staff.

by Ed Kelty (not verified)

Ed, most colleges have both a president and a provost. To put it broadly, the president works a lot on fundraising and whatnot (and spends a lot of time traveling away) and the provost is in charge of the academic side of things. It would be hard to put all of that on one person.

by Anonymous (not verified)

Susan Baldridge strikes me not only as a progressive educator but an individual of individuality for the impetus of quality of education at Middlebury, to be on a continuum of needing the constancy of quality education, which I feel she asserts for, by way of being the new provost of Middlebury, as so, as one as so.

by Todd Miller (not verified)

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