Dr. Sona K. Andrews, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Boise State University, was recently appointed by Oregon University System Chancellor George Pernsteiner to the position of vice chancellor of Academic Affairs.
Dr. Sona K. Andrews, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Boise State University, was recently appointed by Oregon University System Chancellor George Pernsteiner to the position of vice chancellor of Academic Affairs. She will be stationed on the Portland campus and will assume her post on Dec. 1, replacing the recently retired vice chancellor for Strategic Programs and Planning, Susan Weeks.
Portland State Provost Roy Koch chaired the search committee that recommended Andrews to Chancellor Pernsteiner. According to Koch, Andrews will “deal primarily with all of the [OUS’] academic issues.”
Regarding the OUS’ current restructuring plan, for example, Andrews’ involvement will “be important from the perspective of how it would affect academic programs, student success and, of course, how the funding would affect [them],” Koch said.
When Andrews takes office, she will be one of two vice chancellors, according to Koch. The position of vice chancellor of finance, currently occupied by Jay Kenton, has been around for many years and deals mostly with the “fiscal and physical issues” of the OUS, such as “budgets and buildings.”
However, there has not been a vice chancellor of academic strategies for many years, Koch said. Andrews’ position will assist the chancellor with academic and research activities.
In short, she will represent “the educational portion of the Oregon University System,” Koch said.
Bridget Burns, the OUS’ senior policy adviser, said that Andrews’ new position is essentially an expansion of Susan Weeks’ position.
“The previous position focused primarily on strategic planning and programs. The new position includes those focuses, and expands to include diversity, research, economic development and industry affairs, as well as academic affairs,” Burns said.
In the spring, a search consultant contacted Andrews to see if she was interested in the position, Andrews said.
“I read the position prospectus, and thought it was an absolutely fascinating and wonderful position, and then I applied for it,” she said.
Andrews believes that her extensive body of work as a university administrator has fully equipped her for the position. Indeed, she has spent her entire educational and professional career in public higher education.
“Everyone was universally impressed with her background and her skill set,” said Diane Saunders, OUS communications director. “I think she will bring a lot to the position and be able to expand it in certain areas, so we’re excited about that.”
Andrews earned her Bachelor of Arts in geography from Worcester State College in Massachusetts and both her MA and Ph.D. in geography from Arizona State University. She taught geography at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, before teaching the same subject at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. At the latter university, Andrews eventually served as assistant vice chancellor, associate vice chancellor and vice provost.
“One of the real advantages I have…is that campus-level experience,” Andrews said. “I really understand the challenges and opportunities that the campuses are facing, especially during these tough economic times.”
Given this intimate understanding, it is no surprise that Andrews is critical of the way in which rigidly defined federal standards are uniformly imposed on state university systems. For example, she believes that the perception of PSU as having uncommonly low retention and graduation rates is due, in part, to these federal standards.
“If you were to have a student [who], let’s say, started out at Oregon State their first year, transferred to Portland State their second year and completed their degree in four years, they would not be counted as a success by either institution,” Andrews said, “because [national] retention rates and graduation rates are based on first-time full-time students” who earn their degree at a single institution.
Andrews believes that one should examine success rates for the entire OUS and not for a single institution within the system.
“The system was designed when you had very traditional students,” Andrews said. “Today, given the flexibility and choices and the mobility that [students] have, it’s just an archaic system to apply.”
Fortunately, however, Andrews said that there is a national movement trying to change that system.
“I think there’s real value in public higher education,” Andrews said. “It’s a tremendous public good, and it’s something that is worth investing your time and your effort into.”