Wilson: DSU welcomes new vice president

Editor's note: It is summer and here at Dickinson State University, the campus is busy preparing for the return of students in August. DSU has two new vice presidents and I have asked them to each write an article for this column so you can learn...

Editor’s note: It is summer and here at Dickinson State University, the campus is busy preparing for the return of students in August. DSU has two new vice presidents and I have asked them to each write an article for this column so you can learn more about them as people and their leadership philosophy. This month, I would like to introduce you to DSU’s Provost and VP for Academic Affairs, Carmen Wilson. - DSU President Tom Mitzel

When I was a first-year college student, if someone had told me I was destined to become a provost, I would have responded, “What is a provost?” As a first year student, I was majoring in biology with dreams of becoming a surgeon.
But by the time I was a junior, I was no longer a biology major, had dabbled in horticulture and finally settled on psychology with dreams of becoming a therapist.
I subsequently entered a graduate program in counseling psychology and, as a student, worked primarily with troubled youth and their families. While at times challenging, I found this to be energizing work, and I was eager to start my career as a counseling psychologist and, perhaps, teach a bit on the side.
Instead, I found myself as an adjunct faculty member and once again, my life’s goal changed. My father was an extraordinary educator and, purposefully or not, he raised me to be an educator as well. So, I devoted myself to becoming the very best professor I could be, hoping to finish my career as half the educator my father was.
Our roles as faculty members include much more than simply teaching our classes.
Of course, we spend a great deal of time with students out of the classroom advising, and supervising internships and research projects - not to mention providing emotional support for various life circumstances. But we also help to keep university business moving.
Consequently, I soon found myself sitting on committees, then chairing committees; and serving on our faculty governance group, then chairing our faculty governance group. After a variety of campus-wide leadership roles, the new chancellor (the University of Wisconsin System’s version of a president) asked me to be his chief of staff.
After nearly four years as chief of staff, I received a call that I had been nominated to be the campus executive officer and dean at the University of Wisconsin-Rock County. UW-Rock County is one of the two-year campuses in the UW System, and its CEO/dean role is much like President Mitzel’s role here at DSU, albeit on a smaller scale.
While I greatly enjoyed leading the UW-Rock County campus, I was eager to get back to a four-year university, and when I saw an extraordinary opportunity at DSU, I was delighted to be named the next provost and vice president for academic affairs.
I frequently share my story with students, because over the life of my career I have learned many important lessons; in particular, do not plan your life too rigidly because you can never know what the next fabulous opportunity might be. And when someone offers a new opportunity, be very cautious about saying “no” even if you wonder if you are up for the job. Obviously, the person offering the opportunity thinks you are.
Through my experiences I have also learned that an outstanding undergraduate liberal arts education is essential. Ask any employer what they look for as they hire new employees and they will say they want graduates who possess superior communication skills, the ability to think creatively and critically, the ability to analyze and synthesize data and other kinds of information, the ability to work independently and as a member of a team, and so on.
These are exactly the skills a liberal arts education provides - the skills that students learn so well here at DSU.
Our extraordinary faculty and staff are devoted to assuring our students leave DSU with skills that will serve them for their entire careers. And for many students, those careers will include jobs that have yet to be invented. This fills me with great optimism about the future, and I look forward to collaborating with the DSU faculty, staff and community as we continue to enhance the educational experiences our students receive.
Wilson is the provost and vice president for academic
affairs for Dickinson State University.
Email her at or follow the university on Twitter at DickinsonU.

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