When Teri Balser worked for Curtin University in Perth, Australia, she did not realize that in Australia, “tuition” meant students’ time at the university, not the money they spent.
“When I was in a meeting I could not get over the fact that we had a tuition free week instead of spring break!”
Balser is one of the three finalists for Kent State’s senior vice president and provost, and her tuition story is just another example of what international experience provides a candidate: lots of new challenges to overcome.
Balser gave the first of the three finalist’s virtual presentations Tuesday. The presentation entailed what challenges faced higher education and her idea of the role of provost.
“Our biggest challenge is change; humans don’t like it and universities aren’t good at it,” Balser said.
She offered some changes, like instead of instantly making graduated students alumni who are only used for donations, she wants universities to “leave the door open.” Leaving the door open for alumni to interact with the school and its research resources provides an ability for them to change and adapt for the future.
Over her 12 years of senior leadership experience in higher education, she has worked all over the world for schools such as Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Curtin University in Perth, Australia.
At Dalhousie, where she assumed the interim president, she oversaw a strategic planning process that received input from over 200 faculty members.
“I will say that the ideas that she has and the creativity that she has is second to none,” said Chris Moore, the dean of science for Dalhousie and a close colleague of Balser’s.
Balser was the first LGBTQ+ person to serve in this position, and she said in an interview at the time she was proud of the school for giving her the opportunity. She also oversaw the equity, diversity and inclusion portfolio for Dalhousie, where she improved diversity efforts at the university.
“Institutions should be a truly inclusive space,” Balser said.
Balser has received many awards in the U.S. and internationally. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching named her the U.S. Professor of the Year in the doctoral and research universities category in 2010, and the U.K. Higher Education Academy awarded her Principal Fellowship. Principal Fellowship in the U.K. is only awarded through an extensive assessment of a portfolio, and the title represents “significant leadership in the promotion of teaching excellence.”
She has also written over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles and presented on the future of teaching in many countries around the world such as Japan, China and Singapore.
Kent State has been looking for a senior vice president and provost after previous provost Todd Diacon took over from the previous president Beverly J. Warren. The other two finalists Montse Fuentes and Melody Tankersley will present later this week.
If Balser comes to Kent State, she would be the provost of a university for the second time in her career and be back in America for the first time since 2015, when she worked at the University of Florida.
Balser said, “I like Kent because of the commitment that it has to students coupled with their research.”
Ben Vrobel covers administration. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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