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Interim Provost Opens Up About His 34 Years at SCU

When Don Dodson, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, retires this summer, he will mark the end of nearly three and a half decades as part of the SCU administration. “I’ve loved working at an institution that has a clear sense of its mission, a commitment to academic excellence, and a strong sense of community and collegiality,” he notes. “I feel very fortunate to have been able to spend most of my career at Santa Clara.”
Formerly an assistant professor of communication at Stanford University, Dodson began his career at SCU in 1977 as special assistant to the vice president for University Relations. He held various positions over the years in the Development Office and in Academic Affairs before accepting his current position last July.
He took some time to answer a few questions for fyi:
What are your primary duties and accomplishments as interim provost?
The primary responsibilities of the position are to provide leadership for all academic, co curricular, and academic-support programs and services. A particular responsibility this year has been to ensure a smooth transition until the new provost, Dennis Jacobs, begins this summer.
Accomplishments in a position like this are never solo. They rest on the creativity and dedication of many people. Some of the accomplishments this year include greater integration of the Jesuit School of Theology into the University, resource planning for the new Strategic Plan, developing proposed targets for the size and composition of the faculty to achieve our educational goals, implementation of a new appointment model for non-tenure-track faculty, the continued roll-out of the new undergraduate core curriculum, approval of a new M.S. degree in Sustainable Energy, and the development of a proposal for a new Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences and a stand-alone bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies.
What are some major changes you’ve observed in your time at SCU?
There are too many to name them all! A few that come to mind are a greater focus on the University’s Jesuit mission and identity, significant growth in the size of the University, many new majors and degree programs, the adoption of a new undergraduate core curriculum (three times over the past 30 years), an increased emphasis on research, the development of the teaching scholar model for faculty, the development of the University’s three Centers of Distinction, an increased emphasis on community-based learning, the development of Residential Learning Communities, and the physical unification of the campus and construction of many new buildings.
What do you think is SCU’s strongest asset that will continue to make it a leader well into the 21st century?
Its greatest asset is its community of talented and dedicated people who are committed to making Santa Clara an exemplar of excellence in Jesuit education. Doing this in the middle of Silicon Valley, which is a mindset as well as a region, is also a tremendous asset which we should take advantage of to the fullest.
Any plans yet for your newfound free time after you retire?
My only firm plan is to have fewer plans. I look forward to a good night’s sleep and an unscheduled day. More specifically, though, I would like more time for family, travel, reading, playing the piano and listening to music, and volunteer work, including staying involved with the University in various ways. Other than that, I have no plans!


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