Northern Arizona University dean chosen as new USM provost

Dr. Michael Stevenson, dean of Northern Arizona University’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, has been tapped to serve as the next University of Southern Maine provost and vice president of academic affairs, according to an announcement by the school this morning.

Dr. Michael Stevenson (photo courtesy of USM)

Stevenson will replace John Wright, who is retiring at the end of June. Wright has spent 12 of his 40 years in education at USM, where he served as a dean before moving into the provost spot.

Stevenson may be walking into a hornets’ nest at the three-campus USM, where more than half of the university’s faculty voted “no confidence” in President Selma Botman early this month, and new University of Maine System Chancellor James Page is still working on rebuilding some relationship between disgruntled professors and the USM administration.

The latest news from the system is that Page’s review of the compensation program found that the process of giving out raises when unfilled vacancies force remaining employees to do more work is, for the most part, OK. That practice came under fire earlier this year when news broke that USM handed out $240,000 in such discretionary raises while the school was facing more than $5 million in budget cuts.

So USM has been in some turmoil in recent months.

Nonetheless, Stevenson comes with impressive credentials and is excited about trading the Arizona heat for the Maine winters (although the weather may or may not be something he’s specifically looking forward to — some people are just not ‘hot weather’ people).

Here’s a few paragraphs about Stevenson’s background, provided by USM:

As dean at Northern Arizona University, an institution of more than 25,000 students, Stevenson managed a college of 150 full-time faculty in 11 academic departments and three research and service units. He facilitated an $8 million campaign for the design and construction of the university’s Native American Cultural Center.

Prior to joining Northern Arizona University in 2007, Stevenson served as Miami University’s associate provost and as the institution’s first chief diversity officer.  He also held appointments at Ball State University as chair of the Department of Psychological Science and founding director of the university’s Diversity Policy Institute.

Stevenson was named an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow and was assigned to the Chancellor’s Office at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. In that role, he addressed trends in higher education related to such issues as student retention, assessing student outcomes, faculty governance and diversity initiatives. As an American Psychological Association Senior Congressional Fellow, Stevenson was advisor to Sen. Paul Simon (D-IL) on such issues as affirmative action, discrimination, health, and human development.

The founding editor of The Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, he has written, lectured and consulted widely on the role of diversity in improving access and student outcomes in publically funded institutions. Stevenson, who earned a master’s and Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Purdue University, received a teaching award from the American Psychological Association and was named a Fulbright Senior Scholar.

Here’s what Stevenson said about the move in a statement:

I am eager to join the University of Southern Maine community, and am confident that my experiences at all levels of academic life will serve to support USM’s students, faculty and the advancement of USM as the intellectual hub of southern Maine and the state as a whole.

And Botman’s statement on the hire:

Dr. Stevenson brings a distinguished record of scholarly achievement, and a well-earned reputation as an administrator with exceptional communication, advocacy and mediation skills. We are fortunate to have him.

Stevenson was one of 93 applicants for the USM job, and he’s slated to start work here on July 2.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.