For many years Dr. Timothy O. Ireland has been highly respected throughout the NU community. His excellent reputation has students and faculty looking forward to seeing how he will use his new position as Provost to continue to develop Niagara University. His vision for the university is a simple one, yet for some reason tends to generate lots of attention.
“I think we do a pretty good job with the academic experience here at NU,” Ireland said. “My vision is really twofold. One is I want to take us from very good to great. So what does that mean? It means that we begin to put the student at the center of the NU experience.”
As interim Provost, Dr. Ireland has already had the opportunity to put his vision into practice, implementing his first student driven decision.
“One of the things I’m very proud of, putting the student experience at the center of all our decision making, is the new dining commons,” said Dr. Ireland. “Whether students use it or not is irrelevant, it is student space and students have access to it and that’s the way it should be…That to me is student centered decision and so we need to start doing that university wide.”
In explaining what student centered decisions would look like, Ireland used the heat in Dunleavy as an example. He said that decisions would focus on what is important to the students.
The Provost’s attitude toward the student experience is refreshing. He recognizes that there are certain issues on campus that need to be discussed in order to increase the quality of life for students. He understands that implementing these small changes is what will help take the university from good to great, and being given the opportunity to make these necessary changes is what excites Dr. Ireland most about his new position.
“What I like most about this job is at this level I can really begin to think about how I can influence the direction of the university,” said Ireland. “That’s to me really rewarding because I have this idea of what we can be and I really like building things and I wouldn’t be able to do this as dean.”
The most difficult thing about being Provost is the disconnect Dr. Ireland feels from the students. The time spent in the classroom with students is ultimately what he misses most about being faculty.“I come to work and I spend my whole day doing things for the students but I don’t see the students and interact with the students in a way that needs to happen on a regular basis,” he said.
This lack in communication is what drives Dr. Ireland’s vision for Niagara University and is at the center of the changes that he would like to make as Provost. In order to make student centered decisions, student voices must be incorporated and Dr. Ireland is very aware that he must find a way to have open lines of communication with students at NU.
“It might be a student advisory board,” he said. “It might be coffee with the provost once a month, where I go over to Gally and sit there or go over to the dining hall and have a table and students can just come up and talk to me about the good and the bad at NU.”
Whatever it looks like, Dr. Ireland has no desire to be an administrator that is isolated in his office, away from the center of the university. He’s eager to sit down with students and hear their ideas and is also looking for student energy and collaboration on how to make this community a better place. He stated, “I need to know students, because I need to know what’s going on. If I don’t know what’s going on I don’t know what to fix.”
Dr. Ireland’s love for academics are also shaping his vision for Niagara. In the classroom he wants students and faculty to be in partnership, where they explore knowledge together. At the end of a successful course he believes that students have embraced the topics they discovered and maybe found passion in something they learned.
Dr. Ireland provides an example of the kind of professors students want to see. Someone who not only teaches their students but learns from them too. Students have ideas and want to be taken seriously, both in and outside of the classroom. Engaging and encouraging students to pursue what interests them goes a long way in creating a successful academic environment for students.
The highlight of his career at NU has been seeing students become successful NU Alumni. He said, “running into alumni that were my students 10 or 12 years ago and immediately have a connection with them and stories to talk about, those are my highlights.”
“It’s been really really good,” said Ireland about his experience at NU. “Like any job there’s good days and bad days, but in general I look at my 21 years at NU and I just can’t believe that I’ve been able to do everything that I’ve been able to do. I really like NU a lot and I have great respect for the institution. I feel very fortunate to work here and it’s been a really good run for me.”
If you’re interested in talking to Dr. Ireland about the future of Niagara University you can find his office in the bottom of Alumni Hall or email him at email@example.com.