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June 27, 2013

New interim vice provost puts focus on student success

By Doug Vehovec

Following the announcement of Dr. Rosemary Sutton’s retirement on July 1, Cleveland State University appointed Dr. Peter Meiksins as interim vice provost for academic programs, effective that same day.

A member of the Cleveland State faculty since 1991, Meiksins looks forward to tackling the role, his focus is on student success.

A native New Yorker, Meiksins hails from Manhattan and earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Columbia University. He holds a doctorate in social and political thought from York University in Toronto.

“I’m a city person,” Meiksins said. “That’s part of what I like about being here. It’s not a big city, but it’s a city. And it has a community feel to it.”

Since 1991 Meiksins has served the Cleveland State community through his work in the sociology department, gaining a promotion to professor in 2003. Prior to his arrival at Cleveland State Meiksins spent 10 years as faculty at the State University of New York at Geneseo (SUNY Geneseo) that included several years as a tenured associate professor.

“The office that I’m taking over is really complicated,” Meiksins said. “It’s got some really big initiatives that are underway: changing the way freshman advising is done, the whole tutoring operation that’s really sprouting in the last couple of years. There’s a lot of good stuff happening. And there’s some ‘let’s take stock’ kinds of things too.

“A lot of it has to do with that first year experience. Making sure general education courses are functioning right, freshman orientation and freshman advising, and a whole bunch of stuff like that. [The Office of Academic Programs] is student-related stuff.”

Much of that stuff has to do with the changing demographics at Cleveland State. The average student age has fallen over Meiksins’ time at the university, with the most recent student profile reporting an average age of 25.

“We’re getting more traditional freshmen than we used to,” Meiksins said. “It’s still a good mix of traditional and non-traditional students, but the freshman class is pretty heavy with 17- and 18-year-olds. What my office is doing is a reaction to that. We’ve gotten much more interested in what sorts of things happen to freshmen.”

The interest in incoming freshmen is due in large part to the state of Ohio’s emphasis on retention statistics and the ratio of students who enroll in college for the first time to those who graduate. Cleveland State’s “Engaged Learning” initiative, launched in 2008, made a significant impact on the university’s identity in that regard, but there is still work to be done.

“What’s changed in the time that I’ve been here is that now it really feels like a campus,” Meiksins said. “There’s a lot more obvious student activity going on. That’s not something you saw at all in the early 90s. You’d drive in, take your class and then drive home.

“I personally think finding ways to get students engaged in things on campus – not just come in to take classes, but get involved with things like newspapers and student organizations and other activities on campus – actually helps them.”

A career in academia that involved curriculum development and undergraduate teaching gives Meiksins a sense of excitement about his new role.

“It’s always been something I care about,” Meiksins said. “So I’m interested in being given a lot of responsibility for making sure that goes well.”

With a list of responsibilities that include leadership for TASC, the honors program, freshman and exploratory advising, introduction to university life, summer undergraduate research programs and the Center for Teaching Excellence, that excitement will serve him and the students of Cleveland State well.