By Erica Quinones
Former Provost and Dean of the College Dr. Patrice DiQuinzio wished her final farewell to the Washington College community at the Aug. 21 digital First-Year Convocation ceremony.
“Like you [students], I am also making a transition. I am about to step down as provost and dean at WC after a wonderful twelve years here, culminating in the honor of leading and supporting the WC faculty,” Dr. DiQuinzio said at Convocation. “It is a bittersweet moment in some ways, but I am very happy and very excited to see Dr. Michael Harvey, associate professor of business management, step into [the provost] role.”
Her departure, along with that of now former President of the College Kurt Landgraf, was announced in a June 1 press release. This move is the next step in a long career within higher education for Dr. DiQuinzio, during which she served in both administrative and faculty positions.
Before arriving at WC, Dr. DiQuinzio served as the Assistant Dean of the Undergraduate College at her alma mater, Bryn Mawr College in the Pennsylvanian town of the same name, and as a tenured professor of philosophy and gender studies at Muhlenberg College in Allenton, Pa.
After years of teaching, Dr. DiQuinzio decided it was time to pursue a different path and discovered an employment opportunity at WC.
Dr. DiQuinzio joined the WC community in 2008 as the associate provost, accepting the provost position in 2017.
Her professorial experiences were vital to making her an effective agent of academic development, according to Dr. DiQuinzio, because fulfilling the role of provost as chief academic officer is impossible without having been a professor.
“[There is] an in-depth, almost in-your-bones feeling, an understanding of what we [professors] are all trying to achieve on the behalf of our students. Someone who does not understand that, I do not know how that person could be an effective provost,” Dr. DiQuinzio said.
Professors find achievement in the holistic growth of students, according to Dr. DiQuinzio. The goal of the College’s academic programming is to see students as whole people with complex lives whose growth and development as a person is their priority.
Facilitating that holistic development is something Dr. DiQuinzio saw faculty do while she herself helped the College’s academic programs grow through their own existing parts.
Dr. DiQuinzio described her strategic vision for the College as one in which they developed many programs and pathways from existing courses. This vision included the creation of minors such as Data Analytics and Journalism, Editing, & Publishing which pulled old and new courses into their own program, showing the applicability of these classes.
But one area of difficulty for Dr. DiQuinzio was the expansion of diverse faculty.
Last year, students made several demands regarding the expansion of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs on campus which included commentary about the lack of persons of color within the faculty and a wide array of diverse curriculum.
Dr. DiQuinzio said that she pursued the fulfilment of these desires for several years, but they remain tasks for future provosts to approach.
As provost, and thus chair of the Curriculum Committee, Dr. DiQuinzio said they surveyed the status of diverse curricula on campus by asking that each department identify the courses they offered that had diverse content — diversity encapsulating topics such as race, gender, and sexuality.
After the survey was taken, the committee then reviewed several years of graduating classes to determine how many students took those classes. As a fairly high percentage of students took courses with diverse curricula, the committee concluded WC’s curriculum diversity was fair, although not perfect.
The next steps, according to Dr. DiQuinzio, may be a deeper study of how departments define diverse curricula, what is taught in courses that fall under that category, and how those courses align with student expectations.
But the other side of the issue is the lack of persons of color within the faculty. This issue was mentioned not only at the spring Town Hall meeting but by Associate Professor of English and American Studies Dr. Alisha Knight during her acceptance speech of the 2020 Alumni Association’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Convocation.
During said speech, Dr. Knight mentioned that she is one of only two tenured Black professors at WC.
Dr. DiQuinzio said that increased diversity within faculty was something with which departments struggled due to several issues, one being location.
While departments made a “good faith” attempt at creating a diverse pool of candidates, according to Dr. DiQuinzio, hiring anyone was complicated by the College’s rural location because it often lacked employment opportunities for the potential professor’s spouse.
This is another area where she can see future provosts assisting the departments by providing them with more information on how to, as Dr. DiQuinzio said, make it clear to applicants that WC is “serious about diversity, we want [diverse candidates] to apply, and we want you to be considered for a job at WC.”
However, her departure does not mean that Dr. DiQuinzio is entirely hands-off. With the announcement of John S. Toll Associate Professor Dr. Michael Harvey as the interim provost and dean, Dr. DiQuinzio said that she has worked with him to make the transition smooth and has offered him her assistance in the future.
While she is disappointed that she never got to read the Class of 2020’s names at one final graduation ceremony, she is pursuing some long-held dreams.
Dr. DiQuinzio is also turning back towards education with the end of her term. She said that she wants to further her personal study of the Italian language, hopefully culminating in a month-long trip to Italy after the COVID-19 pandemic.
But for the immediate future, Dr. DiQuinzio said she will simply do what she wants when she wants to do so. She is excited to be in Chestertown, watching how the College progresses, and hopes to see it persevere in the face of pandemic-related uncertainty.
“It is really important that the College survive and flourish, that we preserve what is special about the College and the quality of the student experience,” Dr. DiQuinzio said.
The College and its community have a special presence which struck Dr. DiQuinzio when she first joined. It is something she does not want to see disappear.
“WC is an incredibly special place. I am not sure the students understand that because most of them have not been to another college,” Dr. DiQuinzio said. “We really have a spirit here which is special, and that is incredibly important to me, and I want to see that continue.”
Featured Photo caption: Former Provost and Dean of the College Dr. Patrice DiQuinzio ended her twelve-year career at Washington College. She first arrived on-campus in 2008 as associate provost, accepting the provost position in 2017. She leaves behind a legacy of co-governance, in which faculty are increasingly included in decisions, and of making processes simpler, something she described as not written in history books but that affects daily life. Photo by Mark Cooley.