Stephen Kolison Jr. remembers leaving the University of Indianapolis very impressed after meeting with student government representatives during his interview process for the position of executive vice president and provost.
“I was leaving the campus, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I would be thrilled to be a part of this institution,” he said.
Kolison stepped onto campus on April 1 to begin transitioning into the role as executive vice president and provost and will officially assume the duties on July 1.
Prior to his new position at UIndy, Kolison served as the associate vice president for academic programs, educational innovation, and governance for the University of Wisconsin System Administration. Kolison said that a plethora of things caused him to pursue the open provost position, one of which was the emphasis on students and staff.
“One of the things that I enjoy doing has to deal with helping students achieve their dreams. So when the institution has some student centeredness, I find that appealing,” he said. “UIndy has a very outstanding faculty, and I took the time to also look at the faculty rate and the things faculty members said about being at UIndy. The student and faculty interaction, along with the ability for students to get involved in research, were attractive as well.”
Kolison also was interested in the university’s achievements over the last two to three years, including the new engineering program, alum Zak Mitiche’s becoming a Fulbright Scholar and faculty members who have pursued and received various grants.
“This school is on an excellent path, and I want to be a part of this experience and contribute to it,” Kolison said. “President [Robert] Manuel has tremendous vision for the institution, and I love the motto, ‘Education for Service….’ I want to come to UIndy and use my talents and experience to work with everyone and move that agenda forward.”
Kolison’s selection came after months of research, interviews and discussions by a search committee composed of more than 20 faculty and staff members on campus. Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion Jonathan Evans was a co-chair of the search committee and described the search as a “daunting task.”
UIndy hired a consulting firm that helped manage the entire process. The firm worked with the committee, assisting in writing the job description and then using marketing and other skills to have informal talks with potential candidates. Applications were then released, and the committee received at least 100 applications for the position. Through discussions with the entire committee, together with the job description and the consultants, Evans said the committee was able to narrow that pool down so they could continue into the round of “airport interviews.” This meant that candidates flew into Indianapolis from across the country and were interviewed at a hotel. None of the candidates knew each other and were kept separate, and the firm arranged times when they were introduced to the entire committee. Through this process, the committee narrowed its list down to four, who were then brought to campus. Evans said that throughout the entire process, Kolison continued to distinguish himself.
“He was thoughtful. He resonated with a very diverse constituency…. For someone to come in and resonate with those different personalities, including colleagues who I won’t name, who have a reputation for having high standards and a healthy skepticism—I could see their heads nodding in responses to Dr. Kolison’s answers,” Evans said.
Kolison also has a rich educational background, earning his bachelor’s degree in general forestry from the University of Liberia, Monrovia. He also earned a master of science degree in forest economics and marketing and a doctor of philosophy degree in forest economics from Iowa State University. He earned several certificates from Harvard University in various subjects. Kolison spent nine years in his previous role with the University of Wisconsin system and has years of experience working in various school systems across the country, all of which Evans said solidified the committee’s decision to select him.
Students can expect the new provost to be fully engaged, Kolison said, and eager to help them excel.
“We want our students to be so prepared that they are capable to stand out and be successful wherever they go….” Kolison said. “Students can expect me to work with faculty and all the stakeholders, including student government, so that our students are the most successful students anywhere in the United States. They will be competitive and ready for the world, period.”
While working on implementing new ideas, Kolison plans to work with the faculty, administration and president to build on what the university already does successfully.
“So overall, I am hoping to work towards student success, intellectual life and also faculty satisfaction,” Kolison said. “As provost, I am also the chief advocate for the faculty. I want to work with the faculty so that they see UIndy as a place of destination, and that it is where they want to be. I want it to be a place where people want to come and contribute. These are big goals, and I didn’t say they would be easy to do, but I truly believe that [by] working with everyone, we can take this school to the next level.”
Kolison said he feels very strongly that the position of executive vice president and provost at UIndy is the right fit for him, and that he was thrilled to accept it.
“One of the things I have always wanted to do I can do, finally, which is [to] work with faculty directly to help students become more successful and help the institution to operate at a much higher level,” Kolison said. “Of course, I felt a bit emotional and humbled that the faculty, administrators, the president and the stakeholders in the interview process selected me to come to UIndy. I just felt very honored. You know, when a winning organization or team asks you to join in on the winning, it’s an incredible feeling.”
While Manuel made the decision to hire Kolison, Evans and Anita Thomas, dean of the College of Applied Behavioral Sciences and co-chair of the provost search committee, sat in several discussions with Manuel to discuss their reasoning for selecting Kolison. Evans said that playing a large role in the search was an extremely rewarding experience.
“As much as some of us would have liked to say in some way, ‘Well, here’s my person,’ we ended up indirectly saying that, and all came to a consensus on Dr. Kolison,” he said. “Unlike any other search I have been involved in, it just seemed to me, for lack of a better words, ‘the stars aligned,’ and we all just came together. I really think one of the best things about this was just working with such a good committee and then, of course, that Dr. Kolison was there for us to be able to select. He is the right person for this particular time in UIndy’s history.”