Zieg named provost and VP of academic affairs

Michael Zieg examines the future while reflecting on the past

Published by James Cressman, Date: December 10, 2023
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Micael Zieg commencement walk

Michael Zieg was hired as the Slippery Rock University (SRU) provost and vice president for academic affairs. Zieg’s term is effective immediately after being hired into the position after an extensive candidate search and having fulfilled the role of interim provost since May of 2022.

Headshot for Dr. Michael Zieg
Michael Zieg Justin Zackal

As provost, Zieg will be responsible for the development of academic plans and policies for the university. This responsibility does not come lightly to Zieg, who has been an active interim since assuming the position.

Recently, Zieg worked with university deans to develop a university-wide restructuring plan, a plan that initially received negative feedback from faculty. The final draft of the plan was released on Nov. 27.

Zieg is excited to embark within his new role but is serious about his commitment to the university’s best interest.

“It’s exciting, but it’s business as usual,” Zieg said.

Zieg has spent the last twenty years of his career with SRU, starting out as a professor of geography, geology and the environment. With his new role as provost, Zieg is happy to remain with the university within his new position.

“I certainly work at the pleasure of the president,” Zieg said.

According to Zieg, as long as it is in the best interest of the university, he plans to continue working within the role.

While reflecting on the interview process, Zieg shared that the experience gave him the opportunity to think about the needs of the university. Zieg used the opportunity to reflect on performing the job as an interim versus the permanent position.

“I was thinking a lot about the questions. It made me think about how I could have handled things a little differently,” Zieg said.

Zieg said the interview process forced him to think about how he handled the job within the interim position.

“I’ve got a lot to think about over the break now that I’m officially in the role about what needs to be done,” Zieg said.

For SRU, the university has now welcomed both a new president and provost, something that Zieg has recognized.

“When you have a new president, that is a time for something new and allows the university to think about who we are and where we’re going,” Zieg said.

Zieg is happy that the university believed that he had what was needed to assist the president. An exciting factor about his new position is the opportunity to represent academic affairs, but with the goal of making the university the best place it can be.

What is next for the provost?

“I’m looking forward to having the holiday break,” laughed Zieg

While Zieg is excited to spend the holiday with his family, he is still looking to the future of SRU. Something he plans to examine upon returning from break is pairing different people together based on their strengths and weaknesses. A perspective he also plans to use when looking to fill the interim associate provost position.

“I’m excited with our interim associate provost to think about how that position can complement my strengths and my weaknesses,” Zieg said.

Zieg recognizes that he himself has weaknesses and hopes that he can re-organize in the best interest of academic affairs and the university.

While there is no timeline for filling the position of associate provost, Zieg shares that he and Dr. Riley have already had discussions on the subject. Once the university gets through commencement and the holidays, Zieg plans to sketch out what the long term needs of the provost office are.

“We want to know exactly what this job will look like, so we won’t do a search until we really know what we’re looking for,” Zieg said.

Reflecting on the process of developing the university restructuring plan, working with the deans, chairs and faculty, Zieg believed that everyone needed to bring different ideas to the table. Recognizing that some of the initial ideas were rough, he stressed it was always the plan to continue to correct and change ideas.

“That was always the idea that some of this would not stand the test and that we would need to make changes in response to feedback,” Zieg said.

Even still, there are things Zieg wishes he would’ve handled differently. Zieg wants to make clear, however, it was always his intention to listen to the faculty feedback and take it into consideration.

Now that he has assumed the position of provost and the final draft of the restructuring plan has been released, Zieg hopes that faculty will begin to trust him more.

“I was a professor here for 15 years, so I understand. They have a lot of right, almost a duty to expect to see follow through,” Zieg said.

With his experience both within and out of administration Zieg wants to make his perspective clear.

“If there are decisions that are wrong, then I expect to be held accountable for that,” he said.

Zieg hopes the process moving forward will be a collaborative effort, so that everyone will have trust with one another. His goal is for the university to come together to work for the common good of the university.

Another goal of Zieg’s is to continue being present around the campus community. During the week of finals, Zieg attended the BFA reception and the end of semester chorus concert. Attending university-wide events is something Zieg plans to continue to do, however, he does plan to maintain a work/life balance.

Family is something very important to Zieg, he and his wife have six children the youngest of who is 10 years old.

Working with the deans, Zieg wants to identify events that are meaningful to students and faculty to attend. He wants to be present to allow for students and faculty to showcase work that is not only important to them, but to their colleges and departments as well.

Zieg especially enjoys events that his family can participate in as well. During The Rock’s most recent football season, Zieg brought his family out to support the Green and White.

While being present on campus is important to Zieg, he recognizes that given his position he won’t be able to be the most present, but enjoys having the opportunity to engage with students.

Touching upon a story The Rocket printed on Nov. 17, “Homeless on campus,” Zieg was asked how his new position affects these experiences, and what he could do to help students who find themselves in that position.

“Those kinds of stories are always painful to hear because as a university, we have lots of resources and sometimes we’re not able to match them up,” Zieg said.

Zieg believes the most helpful thing he could do is to direct a student to where resources are.

“When I was teaching and I had a student, I’d go with them to the office of Disabilities Services, I remember walking a student to the financial aid office,” he said.

Zieg believes that so many professors throughout the university are extremely good about trying to help students. He recognizes, however, that sometimes there are more difficult situations than others. Zieg believes that in those situations the university can always try to do better, but stressed SRU tries to do the best it can currently.

“We’re always learning about new ways in which to help the needs that people might have,” Zieg said.

The learning process is always evolving and Zieg shares that there are times when the university learns that it’s not meeting people’s needs. In those situations, Zieg believes the university learns and uses the situation to do better the next time.

Something Zieg is very proud of is Rock Pantry+ (formerly Bob’s Cupboard) because of what it offers to students in need.

“I remember when I was interim dean talking to Sammy Lawrence about that and how important it was not to make people come ask for something,” Zieg said.

Through learning the needs of students, the university examined how Rock Pantry+ was offering its services, and found that the students who most needed them were not benefiting. Stressing that while the university wasn’t doing anything wrong in the way the services were being offered, it was about learning how to make students comfortable in asking for help.

According to Zieg, at the heart of the university there are a lot of faculty members who care deeply about SRU and its students and want to make the campus a better place.

“They’re doing it because they care and if it wasn’t for the faculty and staff who care so much, then it wouldn’t work,” Zieg said.

Zieg believes that the individuals who constantly go out of their way to help students are the people who make the community what it is.

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