By Christopher Rightmire
Despite spending most of his early adulthood in a college setting, Scott Furlong never intended to craft a career in higher education.
The Provost candidate spoke to students and faculty about his qualifications on Friday, Feb. 3 in Mildred & Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall. Furlong was one of three candidates for the position who visited the College in the past two weeks.
Furlong obtained a BA in government at Saint Lawrence in N.Y., and then continued his education at American University to earn his Masters degree in public relations. After a year-long stint working for the Environmental Protection Agency, Furlong went back to American University to get his PhD. Furlong said the move was, “not to go into higher-ed., but because I missed being in an academic environment.”
However, Furlong changed his mind and eventually landed a faculty position at the University of Wisconsin. He rose through the ranks, and eventually received tenure, became a full-time professor, chaired his political science department for six years and has been the dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences since 2007.
At his current job Furlong is responsible for the academic and administrative leadership of interdisciplinary and disciplinary programs in the arts, humanities, natural and social sciences, including nine interdisciplinary departments and 40 major and minor programs.
However, despite the administrative experience, Furlong emphasized that he “grew up a faculty member, and that I will always, in some way, be a faculty member.”
Furlong said he is interested in the provost position now because, “it is professionally a good time for me.” He is also looking for a position at a location that “shares the same passions as me.”
Benjamin Rifkin, the dean of the College’s School of Humanity and Social Sciences, says his ideal provost candidate would, among other things, be “a strong leader for the College’s academic mission, and have the vision and planning skills to help the College sustain and advance excellence in our academic programs.”
Furlong expressed that he is, “very passionate about a liberal arts education” and he sensed that the College also had a “very strong focus on liberal arts.” Furlong said he also loves the College’s First Year Experience programs, the commitment in and out of the classroom and the sense of passion and vision emanated by the students.
“I want to have fun at work,” Furlong said, emphasizing how much a sense of community means to him.
When asked what he would change at the College if given free reign, Furlong at first answered tentatively, saying he would “want to talk to people before imposing my viewpoints.”
He then went on to say that the College needs to add additional revenue streams because “public revenue isn’t coming back anytime soon.”
Furlong said that some of the methods he used to generate additional revenue at Green Bay could “possibly run into some conflict” at the College. One of these controversial methods is to institute an online education program and adult degree program. According to Furlong, he made $100,000 a year from this type of summer program.
Junior exercise science major Kevin Reilly said, “I really liked Dr. Furlong’s idea for online programs. It would provide a more convenient way for students and adults to take courses, and it would provide much needed revenue for the College.”
Another budgetary issue Furlong tackled was inflating class sizes. Having a small teacher to student ratio is relative depending on the institution and that a long philosophical discussion would be necessary to determine what direction the College wanted to go with that situation.