Provost candidate Stokes aims to 'build excellence'

The former interim president at Florida State University spoke to MU faculty and staff about AAU metrics and increasing faculty morale.
Provost candidate Garnett Stokes speaks to students, faculty and staff Monday, Nov. 10, 2014, in LeFevre Hall. Stokes had served as interim president at the Florida State University before seeking a position at MU.

Garnett Stokes, candidate for MU executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost and former interim president at Florida State University, spoke to students, faculty and staff in an open forum Nov. 10.

Stokes holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Carson-Newman College in Tennessee and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Georgia.

She served as provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at FSU before becoming interim president. Previously, she held professor, department head and dean positions at Georgia.

“My time as an interim president will make me a better provost,” she said. “It’s fascinating to see the world from that perspective.”

Stokes said she has a history of boosting faculty morale at FSU and Georgia during periods of budget cuts. She hired over 100 faculty members as a dean at Georgia.

Stokes said she has also made counteroffers to keep valuable faculty from competing universities and hired new tenured and tenure-track faculty. She cited communication as her strategy of working with faculty.

“My strategy is always just to talk to small groups of faculty about where we’re going and what we can do,” she said. “My focus is on trying to build faculty morale and build excellence.”

Stokes addressed the Association of American Universities’ evaluation metrics by explaining that she believes there are many important disciplines outside the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

“A great university has strength across many different disciplines,” she said. “It’s about recognizing what it is you need to focus on. Missouri needs to look at where it is and see if there’s something that needs to be tweaked that would move metrics to the other direction.”

She said that although FSU isn’t a land-grant university like MU, she has experience with community engagement and promoting relationships throughout the state. The University of Georgia, where she spent several decades as a student, faculty and administrator, is that state's land-grant institution.

“I appreciate the value of land-grant universities in public higher education,” Stokes said. “It’s a role I’m familiar with and one I always embrace. You don’t have to be land-grant to value what it is that you can do to serve the citizens of the state.”

In response to questions regarding recent FSU incidents with sexual assault, Stokes said she has dealt with controversial issues in the past.

“I’ve seen the firestorm,” she said. “Universities are stymied by what they can say or can’t say regarding controversial situations. I believe in being as fair to our students as possible. I believe that one’s decisions cannot be driven by what the media might or might not say. They have to be driven by the information you have and what you believe to be right in protecting the rights of your students.”

Stokes described her leadership style as collaborative and said she is a careful decision maker.

“I’m a big believer in talking with people, gathering information from people, looking at data to drive decision making,” she said. “I like to communicate with people and I’m very straightforward.”

Stokes said if she were offered the position, the first thing she would do in office is learn about the university’s workings and its people.

“My highest priority would be getting to know the people on this campus, the departments, faculty, staff and students,” she said. “I want to understand where this campus is and where it’s trying to go.”

Stokes is the fourth candidate for the position. Her visit follows forums for candidates Nancy Brickhouse, John Wiencek and Michele Wheatly.

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