WSU community hears third provost candidate

Eitle goals include creating a taskforce to intervene in suspension process, support students

JAKOB THORINGTON, Evergreen reporter

WSU’s third provost finalist is bringing a secret weapon to her candidacy.

“My secret weapon and what I would bring to WSU, as well, is that I get people to work effectively together,” provost candidate Tami Eitle said. “I really expect my teams to do better together than they would do alone.”

Eitle is the current vice provost and accreditation liaison officer at Montana State University. She presented her vision for the provost position at WSU and answered questions from university community members during an online Zoom session on Wednesday.

She said WSU should be bold in advancing the student experience during a time where many challenges surround higher education, such as the current global pandemic.

“We can and we should take advantage of this moment,” Eitle said. “We can encourage and incentivize faculty to thoughtfully combine … teaching technology right now this semester with new discoveries about how people learn and retain information.”

As a sociology professor, Eitle said equity is one of her biggest interests. Now is the time to be bold and advance equity, she said.

At MSU, she chairs the university scholastic appeals board, where she oversees student suspensions and academic probations. Eitle said she began tracking data on suspended students after she took over as chair in 2017.

The results showed the university was suspending first-generation, low socioeconomic status and minority students at higher rates after three semesters, Eitle said.

“[It was] disturbing to the whole group of us who sit on the appeals committee when we actually took the opportunity to look at that data,” she said.  

Her solution was to create a taskforce that could intervene in the suspension process and offer suspended students support so they could return to campus the following semester, she said.

“We brought back about 50 percent [of students] compared to maybe 15 percent in the past that have generally come back on an appeal immediately,” Eitle said.

Amelia Veneziano, a WSU graduate, said Eitle spoke with passion about being bold and decisive. Veneziano asked how to work with people who hesitate at big ideas.

Eitle said she’s seen administrators at MSU get together in the last month through distance learning. This enables them to think more about what impacts students rather than themselves.

“This demonstrates that we can set aside our own fears … and work together to do what’s best for the students,” she said. “Being bold is sometimes scary, but I think we have to listen to people and we have to hear their fears and hear their ideas.”

The final candidate will present 1-2 p.m. on April 20. WSU has not announced who the candidate is yet. Viewers can submit feedback to the search committee about the candidates and their presentations by April 22.