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By Alex Ross 

First candidate interview held for Northern provost

 

September 12, 2017

Havre Daily News/Floyd Brandt

Montana State University-Northern provost candidate Elizabeth Mauch speaks Monday during a public forum held in Hensler Auditorium of Northern's Applied Technology Center to discuss her candidacy.

Elizabeth Mauch, a candidate for Montana State University-Northern's next provost, spoke Monday in Hensler Auditorium about her time in higher education and was interviewed by Northern faculty, including about complaints from past colleagues. 

Mauch is one of four candidates looking to replace former Provost William Rugg who announced his retirement in April. 

Northern's Director of University Relations Jim Potter said the company conducting the provost search for Northern, RPA Inc., will not release the names and resumes of the candidates until two days before their interviews. 

Mauch has been a professor in the department of mathematics at Bloomsburg University since 1999 and was dean of the University's College of Education from May 2009 to May 2017, her resume says. She has a doctorate and master's in mathematics from Lehigh University and a bachelor's in mathematics from Moravian College.

Mauch said what attracted her to Northern was the university's mission, especially the part of the university's mission statement that says it is dedicated to "teaching and the pursuit of knowledge." 

"After I heard of this position," she said, "it was your mission that I was drawn to, and as I have studied your programs and I have gotten to know folks today, it really shows me how you have grown and what you do really does emanate from your mission." 

Mauch gave two examples of programs launched during her time as dean, a Regional STEM magnet school and the McDowell Institute for Teacher Excellence in Positive Behavior Support. 

Mauch said the Regional STEM Education Center started as an effort between the university, area school districts and the local businesses to increase opportunities for students in science technology engineering and math, specifically those from local rural communities.

She said that five years after its launch, the program has been a great recruiting tool for students interested in the STEM field, and the university has retained students at very high rates, staying within the STEM majors.

The program, she said, has benefited students, school districts and local businesses. 

"So it was a coalition that I brought together," she said. 

Mauch said the McDowell Institute is a four-year program for student teachers including youth mental health first aid, a program that takes student teachers through multiple situations they might encounter, practice techniques to deal with such situations and put some of those techniques to use through student teaching opportunities. 

When faculty from the university said they faced similar challenges with college students at the university, the same youth mental health first aid became available to student resident assistants and faculty, she said.

Mauch repeatedly talked about the need for a communication structure on campus that is transparent. She said that in recent years she has worked to make sure she thinks about how she is communicating and that she does so in a variety of ways. 

Northern Professor Curtis Smeby asked Mauch about a December 2015 story in the Press Enterprise in Bloomsberg about criticism she faced for forwarding emails to and discussing other staffers with a professor in violation of her role as a supervisor. 

That led to a six-month internal investigation that concluded in fall of 2015. The story does not detail the outcome of the investigation. 

The story reports that 3,000 pages of Mauch's emails from two six-week periods shared with the Press Enterprise showed that she discussed personnel matters with a professor and forwarded emails sent to her by other faculty members. 

Mauch said she raised the issue in her cover letter to the committee. Looking back, she said, communication was something that she did not know that she needed at the time. 

The University's College of Education was undergoing a reorganization during the time the emails were sent due to changes in intensive teacher training, she said. Mauch said a precipitous drop in enrollment occurred during the reorganization and she decided to merge two departments. It was not one of the solutions the faculty came up with at the time, but, Mauch said, at the time she thought her explanation that declining enrollment was a good enough reason to merge the departments. 

She said at the time she was frustrated at the time people couldn't understand her decision to merge the two departments and she complained about people "to other folks in emails." 

It is something, she added, she should not have done. 

"I will tell you, I don't even remember writing these emails, but I took a step back when that all happened and I thought, you know, if I am not going to be able to communicate with folks and be transparent enough, and if I can't when I have a challenge go up to them and talk about it then really we aren't going to get anything solved," she said. "So I really made major strides in what I do, and that is where I think communication is key." 

She said the subsequent strategic plan was more successful. Since then, Mauch said, she has tried to think more about how she communicates with other people and different ways of doing it, and when she has frustrations with other people to talk to them directly. 

Future forums for provost candidates are scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday, both from 2 to 3 p.m, and Wednesday, Sept. 20, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 a.m., all in Hensler Auditorium.

 

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