Talking shop with Ron Rosati, Southeast Missouri State University provost

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Southeast Missouri State University provost Ron Rosati inside his Academic Hall office. (Laura Simon)

Ron Rosati once dreamed of being a dairy farmer before he embarked on his career path in higher education.

Rosati, Southeast Missouri State University's provost and well-traveled academic, said after some experience in the field, so to speak, he earned a fresh respect for farmers. The first thing he learned was cows never take a break.

"I greatly enjoyed working in agriculture, but even with the youthful enthusiasm of a 19-year-old it occurred to me that at some point in my life I might want a career that did not require milking cows at 5 a.m., seven days a week," Rosati said.

He decided instead to indulge his passion for agriculture by teaching others about it. He earned a bachelor's and master's degrees in ag education at Cornell University, followed by a Ph.D. from Iowa State University.

The choice seems to have paid off for Rosati. Get to know the provost, what drew him to Southeast more than a year ago, and what it is exactly provosts do.

Question: A university provost is charged with multiple responsibilities. Explain what the provost does at Southeast.

Answer: The provost is the chief academic officer of the university. It's my job to work with the president [Dr. Ken Dobbins] to ensure that we are offering the academic programs and services needed by the region that we serve. Our quality is measured by the success of our graduates. It's my responsibility to provide appropriate higher education services so the citizens and businesses of this region can successfully achieve their goals. I'm also responsible for ensuring the quality of our academic programs, and for assuring that we are responsible stewards of the resources entrusted to us by the taxpayers of Missouri. Some of the day-to-day activities that I engage in include reviewing our academic programs to keep them current and responsive to the changing of our region, developing systems to ensure the quality of our academic programs, helping the faculty keep current with evolving instructional technology, hiring the right people for key leadership positions on campus, complying with governmental regulations and accreditation requirements and solving problems for our academic community.

Q: What drew you to Southeast and the provost position?

A: The provost position at Southeast Missouri State University was attractive to me for a number of reasons:

1. Quality of the academic programs. At Southeast Missouri State University, an unusually large percentage of the academic programs are accredited by professional or disciplinary organizations which speaks to the quality of those programs.

2. Financial strength. During a time when many institutions are in crisis because of financial turmoil, Southeast is growing and prospering.

3. Enrollment growth. Southeast is in its fifth-straight year of record enrollment. This enrollment growth speaks to the value that residents of Southeast Missouri place on the University's programs, and, from a pragmatic perspective, the enrollment growth provides tuition revenue to assist with declining state appropriations.

4. Administrative stability. Southeast has a very stable administrative structure with administrators who been in place for many years.

5. The community. My family and I appreciate what Cape Girardeau has to offer: good schools, affordable living, availability of health care, a broad range of restaurants, shopping, entertainment and other services. The people are very friendly and demonstrate good family values. The climate is comfortable: we've lived in South Texas where it's very hot and upstate New York where it's very cold. Now we have it just right.

Q: What's the most challenging part of your job? What's the most fulfilling?

A: The most challenging part of this position is continuing the development of quality academic services that is part of the fabric of Southeast at a time of declining budgets. The university has become very skilled at increasing efficiency, securing other sources of revenue, and creatively increasing programmatic quality with fewer dollars. But the efforts needed to deal with the budget cuts take away time and energy that could be expended toward other quality initiatives.

The most fulfilling part of this job is witnessing the success of our students. I see that success when I talk to our alumni, when I meet with students on campus and when I attend commencement. A significant number of our students are first generation college students, nontraditional older students, and students who have overcome significant hurdles to earn their college degrees.

Q: Given the mobility of information, driven by rapidly evolving technologies, will there be a need for a college classroom in the future? Will faculty and staff be replaced or Southeast's work force reduced by and through technology?

A: More of our educational work will be done online, but we will certainly continue to have traditional classrooms with faculty leading students through a series of the experiences that maximize student learning. We teach some courses that require deliberate personal interaction, such as counseling skills, public speaking skills, or teaching skills. We teach some psychomotor skills that require a physical presence, such as how to play the French horn, how to create ceramic art, how to draw blood, or how to insert an IV. Those classes will never be entirely online. Some of them may, however, be taught in a blended manner, partially online and partially face-to-face. We do not anticipate a reduced work force as a result of the use of technology. We may however see a change in the way that faculty work with students. Rather than being the source of information, faculty roles may emerge to be more of a facilitator of learning.

Q: What's the one thing that might surprise people about Ron Rosati? Something maybe only your family and closest friends know.

A: I finished my first triathlon just a few weeks ago and generally did well, but my swimming needs a lot of work.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: