Photo by Amy Podraza

Future provost discusses collaboration within the university

On March 18, President Cabrera announced that he selected Lehigh University’s Dean of the Engineering School, David Wu, to fill the position of provost. Though Wu has not officially begun his position, he is already thinking about his goals and objectives for his role as provost.

Wu was not a stranger to Mason when he was first nominated for the position. He had visited Mason many times over the years to visit colleagues in the Volgenau School of Engineering.

“I have always had a positive impression of the place and the quality of people and the programming and the students, and of course, the campus is a very nice setting,” Wu said.

An aspect of Mason that drew Wu to the institution was the strategic plan, which he finds to be very “refreshing” and different from other higher education institutions.

“I like that it positions itself by putting the student first. It creates value for the student, faculty, community and the world. It’s a very well-connected, very well-articulated view of the place of a university in a broader sense…I think this is very consistent with the way I see the role of higher education,” Wu said.

Wu also remarked that his favorite statement in the strategic plan was the Mason was the “best university for the world.” It addressed, to him, the question of how Mason could make an impact, both domestically and globally, on society.

One of Wu’s biggest goals as provost is to institute more multidisciplinary programming, which would allow for the intersection of different subjects, such as computer science and business, as a new way to create academic programs and research initiatives. Wu sees the beginnings of this type of programming in the New Century College.

“It’s really about how do you collaborate with a large number of people with different perspectives and channel their energy to the greater good of the institution,” Wu said.

During his time at Lehigh, Wu instituted 12 multidisciplinary programs, which he believes had a positive impact on student research by creating relationships across disciplines and futhering their research capabilities.

“In terms of research and also in education, it is very rewarding to see the impact [of these programs] on the students and how you actually open up new opportunities that were not there before…I think thats the whole reason we are in education in the first place is being able to have an impact on young people’s lives,” Wu said.

As Mason hopes to become regarded as a research institution, Wu sees multidisciplinary research initiatives as “unconventional collations” that will help generate research on topics relevant to today’s society, as well as help the university gain more research funding.

“In this day and age, research needs to address a societal problem of real impact. When you have a campus that [works] in a multidisciplinary fashion, and they’re taking into account the bigger issues of our time, [the campus] is very easily aligned with the interests of funding opportunities,” Wu said.

Wu also addressed, in terms of funding, that certain financial opportunities are need-based.

“You put yourself in a very unique position to compete because you can address that type of an issue that through areas of expertise you are able to put together and over time, anyone can do that but if you do it at a rate that is faster than everyone else, you can be much more dynamic than your competition,” Wu said.

However, Wu believes that the biggest obstacle in creating these collaborative research initiatives is people’s time, which he believes is the “most valuable resource” in a university.

Wu acknowledged that the teaching faculty has a wide variety of responsibilities and spoke about finding a balance between instructional time and research.

“To strike a proper balance [between research and teaching] is going to be the challenge…you want a research faculty also engaging with the students and you want teachers also engaging in research,” Wu said.

Wu not only wants to integrate collaborative leadership into research and the classroom, but also sees it as his own personal leadership style. He views his position as provost as a way to work collaboratively, generating success for his colleagues.

“At the end of the day, when [my colleagues] are successful, I am successful,” Wu said.

In terms of student involvement, Wu commented that he would like to have many different kinds of interactions with students at Mason.

However, he noted differences between the student population at Mason and Lehigh, in terms of size and types of students.

“I have to find an effective way to interact with large groups of students and hopefully learn their perspective and get their feedback,” Wu said.

Wu looks forward to his new position as provost, which will begin on July 1. He is especially excited about being given the opportunity to make an impact on a “larger scale” with this institution.

“I think Mason is an amazing place and it has a very diverse population and I am really looking forward to working in that new environment…I think I have something to contribute in this environment and certainly being able to make an impact to a much larger student body,” Wu said.