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Provost search finalist Pranesh Aswath visits Tampa campus for town hall

University of Texas at Arlington Senior Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Policy Pranesh Aswath engaged with questions from the USF community about his potential role in administration. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

During Wednesday’s town hall, Pranesh Aswath, one of four finalists to be provost, faced questions from the community about what his approach would be to help USF’s rise as a top-ranked university.

There were 10 people in attendance at the Patel Center for Global Sustainability for the town hall, none of which were students, and an estimated 100 viewers were watching online. The Q&A-style event lasted about an hour.

Currently working as senior vice provost for academic planning and policy at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), Aswath said the position has prepared him for the provost role at USF and shared some of the reasons why he applied to the role.

The finalist said he had already employed strategies for student success at UTA. This included the graduation help desk, which consisted of a rapid reaction team from the provost’s office built to help students get across the finish line, according to Aswath.

Student success is one of the major pillars of a university, according to Aswath. He said he can bring to the table new innovative methods to help with this, citing his past experience as an example.

Aswath said there must be continued support toward students that goes beyond the initial recruitment process, in the form of financial support and providing them with a well-rounded education. This can come in different forms such as providing students in the majors with the lowest-paying starting salaries with marketable skills, credentials and certifications, he said.

“It’s not just bringing students and using the money as a carrot,” he said. “But also, [we have to] provide the carrot later on as well.”

Faculty support was also a priority, since they are what makes an institution thrive, Aswath said.

He said he hopes to increase diversity within faculty members. A vibrant university needs diversity of ideas and opinions, which can only come from diverse faculty, according to Aswath.

In a post-consolidated USF, open lines of communication and governance are also important qualities for maintaining the three-campus university, Aswath said.

“Shared governance is a cornerstone of any institution,” he said. “Shared governance means the different stakeholders need to have a voice in the matter, and [they must be] real voices.”

Every university has a responsibility to student success, according to Aswath.

“They’re putting their futures in your hands when they come to your university and you’re taking their money to support institutions. In return, we have to do everything we possibly can to help them succeed,” Aswath said.

“It’s really a very personal thing. And in that context, it is a responsibility. We need to do the right thing, which is to help our students succeed.”