University of Idaho presidential candidate Diane Z. Chase addressed community members in a pair of open forums Monday, starting off a week of meet-and-greets that will feature each of the five finalists for the job.
No stranger to leadership, Chase is the current executive vice president and provost for University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Shehas been overseeing 16 different schools and colleges and more than 30,000 students for about three years. Before her time at UNLV, Chase worked at the University of Central Florida for more than 30 years, taking on an array of administrative roles, including five years as executive vice provost of academic affairs.
During the forum Monday, Chase called herself an “accidental administrator,” saying she is a researcher by nature and that her decision-making process as a university leader is driven by data.
“If someone had told me when I was a young faculty member that someday I’d be standing in front of you talking about being president of your institution, I would have just laughed,” she said. “What would happen over time is, I began to realize that the same skills that I had as an academic and running a large field project in a foreign country were ones that could be useful in a university.”
Chase holds a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is internationally recognized for her research on the ancient Maya, and she has authored more than 150 articles, monographs and book chapters. She has taught as a full professor of anthropology at both UNLV and UCF.
“The thing that I like to do in my spare time is actually dig in the dirt in the jungle,” said Chase, who has been conducting excavations in Belize with her husband, Arlen, for more than 30 years. “I can do without vacations, but I can’t do without at least a little bit of time in the jungle doing research.”
When asked to speak to her approach to the collaborative nature of heading a university administration in concert with student, staff and faculty leadership, Chase pointed to her history as someone who has worked both with and within multiple tiers of the university system. She said administrators and faculty at UNLV have had a contentious relationship in the past but have since made changes intended to tighten that relationship.
“The faculty senate changed their constitution last year and when they did they made the provost an actual member of the senate, which I think suggests the nature of our role,” Chase said. “I meet with the faculty senate leadership once a month, with the chair once a month, and I meet with the student leadership on a regular basis, but it’s a little more ad hoc.”
With the post of UI athletics director still vacant, one questioner asked what Chase would look for in candidates for that job and what her thoughts are on the relationship between athletics and academics. Chase said athletics is key to the culture of any school, calling it the “front porch to the university.” She said it fosters enthusiasm and interest from students, alumni, the community and beyond. When pressed on what specific qualities she would look for in a new AD, she said integrity and concern for student well-being would be top requirements for the post.
“And then there’s the question of, for God’s sake, it’s got to be someone who can help us win,” Chase said to applause.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.