On June 1, Associate Provost Dr. Joel Shrock will be shortening his long-held title to “provost.”
“[It’s] very exciting,” said Shrock. “In fact, when President Pistole called and offered me the job, I probably sounded like an idiot because I thought he was going to talk more about the process. Instead, he offered me the job—I really was so excited.”
As Shrock prepares to step into his new role, he has realized that many are unaware of the duties and responsibilities that come with the “provost” title.
The provost is the chief academic officer, Shrock explained, meaning that the provost works with deans, department chairs and all faculty members to ensure that AU’s programs remain accredited. Additionally, the provost acts as the vice president of academic affairs.
“I’m excited to get in and get involved with President Pistole, the other vice presidents and all of the deans and the faculty to try to see if we can figure out where we’re going and how to live in this new landscape,” he said.
As associate provost, Shrock has gotten to work alongside current Provost Dr. Marie Morris and explained that AU is “lucky to have her.”
“She’s getting my input on some things as I’ll be taking over,” said Shrock. “I’m so happy that I got to work with her—she’s been a fantastic mentor for me.”
Although Shrock expressed excitement for his new position, he is aware that the current pandemic poses “significant challenges.”
“I have to admit, it’s just weird already,” said Shrock. “COVID is just the strangest time that I’ve ever taught in. I’ve been doing this a long time. I taught my first college class in 1991 and, since last March, this has been the strangest, most difficult time in my memory.”
Shrock explained that he hopes the vaccine will improve public health and allow higher education to be “a little bit more back to normal” by fall.
“We’ve been dealing with this for a year—we’re going to deal with it all spring semester,” said Shrock. “The pandemic really, at this point, is calling the shots. If I’ve learned anything about the pandemic and being an administrator in it is that we must be flexible to respond to the urgent needs that society has with what is going on.”
Despite COVID-19 and its effects on higher education, Shrock believes that AU has a “really bright future” to look forward to.
“There are so many things that we have that are outstanding here,” said Shrock. “And I’ve worked in a lot of places—this hasn’t been my only stop… I’ve been around to a few institutions.”
Prior to being hired as a history professor at AU, Shrock worked at Northern Kentucky University, Miami University Hamilton, Xavier University, Great Basin College and Ball State.
While at Ball State, Shrock realized he wanted to teach at a Christian liberal arts college.
“That became my goal,” he recalled.
Although Shrock was ready to uproot and move elsewhere for this calling, he found an opening at a small Christian liberal arts college close to home.
“When the job came open for AU, I was really excited because I thought I was going to have to move anywhere in the eastern half of the United States,” said Shrock. “It was providential. I mean, I really felt like I had been sort of led here.”
Shrock said that he appreciates working at a smaller institution and that the “size makes everything a little bit more personal.”
“What working at AU has taught me is we actually have tremendous faculty here,” said Shrock, “and I think partnering with them is going to be essential in figuring out how we create new programs, how we keep our programs vibrant and fresh and how we connect with students and the needs that they have.”
Among other initiatives, Shrock explained that he hopes to use his new position to examine two questions: “How can we continue to bring great students to our campus?” and “How can we get them the programs that they need?”
“I want to continue the good work that the faculty has done here over my 15-year tenure,” said Shrock. “I think the faculty have done a lot of really innovative things to keep us relevant and to rise up to the challenges in the 21st century.”