Fostering "Big Ideas," supporting innovative teaching, research, students among themes of new UND Provost, VP for Academic Affairs Dr. Thomas M. DiLorenzo

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Fostering "Big Ideas," supporting innovative teaching, research, students among themes of new UND Provost, VP for Academic Affairs Dr. Thomas M. DiLorenzo

When University of North Dakota President Robert O. Kelley named Thomas DiLorenzo UND's new Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, he focused on DiLorenzo's excellent credentials and leadership experience. The title "provost" designates DiLorenzo as UND's senior academic administrator; as VP for academic affairs, he'll direct the academic division of the largest institution of higher learning in the Dakotas.

With a wealth of teaching and administrative experience and a distinguished research track record, DiLorenzo is the right person to help UND continue "our progress towards becoming an exceptional UND," said Kelley.

DiLorenzo said he was attracted to UND in part because of Kelley's strategic direction, "Exceptional UND," which focuses on enhancing student learning, gathering, collaborating, enhancing quality of life for faculty and staff, and building UND's presence off campus. DiLorenzo said the tenets of Exceptional UND connect to his goals, which include championing innovative teaching techniques that benefit student learning, nurturing research programs, and stimulating and supporting interdisciplinary partnerships. He said another goal is to help UND tell its story.

But DiLorenzo is also an upbeat community-focused administrator with an appreciation for the power of collaboration.

"In all of my communications, I want the community to see that I'm a huge cheerleader for the University," said DiLorenzo, a psychologist and academic administrator from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "I want to tell our story, to celebrate our achievements, and to promote creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation. I want to be very positive. The provost's office is where this can happen."

Clearly, DiLorenzo enjoys being part of academia. That enthusiasm is palpable as he describes some of his experiences teaching and leading in the higher education setting.

"We have the best jobs in the world," he said.

DiLorenzo emphasizes that he's a mentor, not a micromanager, who also appreciates the fiscal side of management.

"Maybe that's a consequence of my second undergraduate degree – economics," he quips.

DiLorenzo said he'll focus on several key themes:

  • Helping to enhance UND's student-centered environment.
  • Supporting UND's research agenda.
  • Stimulating Big Ideas. "Big ideas by their nature are interdisciplinary. So we want to do interdisciplinary teaching and interdisciplinary research because that's where grants will be in the future. That's exciting."
  • Liberal arts education. "We want to continue to focus on the core skills that everyone needs---from English and other traditional liberal arts majors to students preparing for science, technology, mathematics and engineering careers: critical thinking, writing, quantitative reasoning, problem solving, team-based learning. We must make this message clear to faculty, students, and the public."
  • Strategic planning. "We have an excellent starting point, a roadmap to 'Exceptional UND'; now we want to take that to the next level."
  • Supporting graduate students. "When you're a research university, you also want to promote graduate education."

From local to global

DiLorenzo has his eyes out for what's happening on the global stage. UND, he says, is well-positioned to help create an international reputation. Some of UND's programs that pop out at DiLorenzo as having significant global potential: aviation, energy, entrepreneurship, environment, law and public policy, rural health, and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

"We want to transform students while they're in school, and we want them to become technologically savvy," said DiLorenzo, who's psychology research includes the dynamics of faculty development and promotion. Part of that transformative process includes helping students and faculty to develop a creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial spirit at all levels.

Juan Miguel Pedraza

University and Public Affairs writer

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