Every student at the College was once a stranger here. Every student was once unsure of his or her place on campus, unsure of his or her major, unsure that this place was truly the best fit. And so was every administrator – but not for long.
Jacqueline Taylor, the College’s new Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, was welcomed into to the College in March of this past year with wide, open arms — as an incoming freshman might be.
“We kind of fell in love with the sense of community,” Taylor said, speaking of her first visit on campus with her spouse, “and people were so gracious to us.”
Yet, this was not Taylor’s initial reaction to the College. Hailing from DePaul University in Chicago, a school with over 20,000 students and two campuses, Taylor was content with her prestigious title as founding Dean of the College of Communications. She had worked as Dean there for six years, totaling over 30 years of experience in academia and higher education administration.
Then, out of the blue in August 2012, Taylor was contacted by the College’s search consultant about a Provost position that had opened up.
“I had a job I loved,” said Taylor, “I said ‘I’m not really looking for a job.’ And [she] said ‘We like to hire happy people.’ [She] said ‘just take a look.’ So I did.”
Immediately pleased with the values of the College and the small classroom sizes, so unfamiliar at DePaul, Taylor applied and was given the position, effective March 18 of this year.
“Why was I tempted? Because I could see this could be a really exciting challenge,” Taylor said. “You know, I just live in fear of boredom.”
Taylor had helped build the College of Communications at DePaul from the ground up, and it was now time for her for a new adventure. “The job was now going to change to be more one of ensuring that you maintained quality, not so much building,” she said of her position at DePaul.
“It wasn’t as challenging as it had been in the first four years, and I am a person who loves to be challenged.”
Now with just over five months under her belt as Provost, she has found what she believes are the College’s precious gems: student-faculty engagement, diversity, and community.
“It’s much deeper and richer than I could have imagined, and I am thrilled about it,” Taylor said with regard to the faculty-student collaboration effort on campus, citing MUSE, the College’s summer mentor program for undergraduates.
In the coming months, Taylor is working with a team of the College’s Cabinet officers, including Lisa Angeloni, VP for Enrollment Management, Gregory Pogue, VP for Human Resources and Kerri Thomson-Tillet, Director of Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Diversity, to create a strategic plan for maintaining the College’s commitment to diversity.
“I enjoy leadership roles, and I enjoy working with people to try to help them get where ever we need to go next,” Taylor said. As a part of her role as Provost, she is in charge of using the often scant state funds economically, or “investing properly” in the programs that will best serve the campus.
One aspect that Taylor would like to work on is technology. Although the College has made several updates in recent years, like the advent of the blended learning summer classes, she believes in raising awareness “of the way some of these tools can actually strengthen the engagement between faculty and students.”
“A digital revolution has occurred,” she said, “We’re moving out in a world…where technology is going to be part of the workplace, part of graduate school. So let’s figure out the ‘TCNJ’ way to do this.”
In the end, no matter the school she is working at, she is more than satisfied to be working in higher education.
“I feel like there are so many problems we face as a world, as a society. Education is one of the answers to almost all of those problems,” Taylor explained. “On my very worst day when I feel discouraged about whatever might be going on in the world, I still can feel like I am part of one of the ways that we hope to get better.”