The long search for university provost ended Jan. 23 after Christian studies professor and interim provost, Dr. Steve Oldham, accepted the permanent position.
Oldham’s official position, provost and vice president for academic affairs, means he will serve as the chief academic officer. He will preside over all academic programs and associated faculty.
“I see the job as the provost as sort of a facilitator, helping the faculty to do what is most important at UMHB, which is to teach and mentor our students,” Oldham said. “I want to do everything in my power in terms of opportunities, new types of initiatives to help our faculty to flourish.”
As he prepares to serve the faculty in their growth, Oldham said he hopes to expand his range of faculty members.
“One of the joys of this position, so far, has been the opportunity to get to know the faculty better,” he said. “It is nice to get to know all the excellent people we have across campus.”
Working with the president-designate, Dr. Randy O’Rear, is another interesting aspect for Oldham as he anticipates future change. He credits President Dr. Jerry Bawcom’s leadership as a solid foundation to build on.
“UMHB is in a very good position right now. There are some growth areas, but there aren’t a lot of wholesale changes we need to make. Yes, we will see some improvements, but we will be standing on the shoulders of what Dr. Bawcom has already achieved here. I am looking forward to Dr. O’Rear’s leadership. He is a collaborative leader. He wants to involve as many people as possible in the decision making, and I think there is wisdom in numbers.”
Oldham meets the transition from professor to administrator with excitement and enthusiasm, but the opportunity is also bittersweet.
“Teaching is my first love, and it will always be, so it was a difficult decision for me to step out of the classroom and come into an office,” Oldham said. “My interaction with students has certainly decreased. I am not teaching nearly as much as I used to, so it is a big sacrifice.”
Although Oldham has moved to different pastures, he will continue to minimally teach, which he said will keep his foot in the door.
Oldham and his students have begun to prepare for the effects of his absence as a professor.
Junior Christian studies major Geoff Payne said Oldham has played a significant part in his life in and out of the classroom.
Payne, an honors student and friend of the professor, has spent many hours with Oldham. He influenced Payne’s ways of reasoning and learning. He also helped build Payne’s character as a person and a disciple of Christ.
Payne said that although he will miss Oldham as a professor, he could not be more excited for him to have the new opportunity to work at the administrative level.
“He is a great guy, and I don’t think this could have happened to a better person,” he said. “As a teacher going into administration, I think he will be perfect for the job. He is a smart man, very intelligent and very organized. He is never without a response, and I don’t see why he would have any trouble with this. He is incredibly qualified for this position.”
Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and soon to be university president, Randy O’Rear, also believes Oldham is qualified for the job.
While searching for someone to fill the provost position, O’Rear looked for candidates who understood the institution and its priorities.
He felt the right candidate needed to be passionate about student success, desire for the university to achieve higher excellence and work well with the faculty.
O’Rear also said he looked for someone he was compatible with. The provost needs to be able to “fit well with the institution, my leadership and the faculty,” he said.
O’Rear believes Oldham possesses all these qualities.
“Dr. Oldham is a brilliant academician, a very gifted administrator, a natural leader and he has a presence about him that is calm, confident and strong. I have great trust and confidence in his abilities.”
He said he selected Oldham as interim because he thought he was gifted.
“He just became a very attractive candidate for the permanent position the more I worked with him,” O’Rear said. “He had the confidence and trust of not just me, but the president’s council, the deans and the faculty in general.”
O’Rear said, “I could not be more excited about the future of MHB and the academics, than I am with (Oldham) leading academic affairs.”