Dr. Robert Rhodes will be the next provost of the university.
Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university, has appointed Rhodes, associate dean for students and programs at New Mexico State University, as the university’s next chief academic officer.
Schubert announced the appointment in an email to faculty and staff Wednesday, and introduced Rhodes and his family at Chapel on Monday. Schubert said Rhodes’ experience and abilities qualify him for the position.
“He is a proven leader who has had responsibilities of significant scope with great results,” Schubert said. “He brings the perspective of mature aspects of a research institution, but he also understands ACU. He got his undergraduate degree at a faith-based university and is a member of the Church of Christ.”
Rhodes, 43, earned a Ph.D. in school psychology from the University of Northern Colorado and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Oklahoma Christian University. He has served as chair and professor in New Mexico State’s school psychology department and worked as a professional school psychologist before that.
Rhodes said he will miss New Mexico State after working there for 17 years, but ACU’s faith-based mission attracted him to Abilene.
“I like the idea of not just educating students but developing them spiritually and focusing on making a real difference in the world,” Rhodes said. “I want to be a part of that.”
Rhodes said he wants to talk to students more and pay close attention to feedback from both students and faculty.
“It’s important for the provost to be well informed, to sit down and talk to the students to see what’s going on and to eat in the Bean,” Rhodes said. “I know the relevancy and application of the CORE curriculum is a consistent concern for students, among other things. It’s my job to be accessible and responsive and open to students.”
After the provost search committee announced Rhodes and Dr. Darryl Tippens, provost at Pepperdine University, were the two finalists for the position, both candidates visited Abilene for on-campus interviews around spring break. Tippens visited right before the break, and Rhodes visited right after. After each visit, the committee evaluated the two finalists and made their official recommendation to Schubert March 27.
Schubert said he knew he would need to work closely with a provost who shared the university’s mission. He said Rhodes fits the description and will benefit his work as president.
“The president and provost must have a common vision and mutual trust and admiration,” Schubert said. “It’s very difficult when they are on different pages for where the institution is headed. Equally important is the need for each person to be completely authentic and candid with each other given the nature of the roles, and I can’t tell you how comfortable and impressed I am with Dr. Rhodes.”
Rhodes said he wouldn’t have accepted the position if he didn’t think he would have a good relationship with the president.
“It has to be a close and collegial relationship,” Rhodes said. “If not, it doesn’t work.”
Dr. Greg Straughn said his experience as interim provost for this semester has shown him what the position entails. He said Rhodes’s strengths and perspective suit the position well.
“Dr. Rhodes is highly collaborative and he seems to be very thoughtful and deliberate in the way he makes decisions,” Straughn said. “He has an incredibly open perspective because of the variety of roles he’s served. The scope of expertise Dr. Rhodes possesses is something the university was looking forward to.”
Dr. Stephen Johnson, dean of the Honors College and chair of the provost search committee, said the committee assessed the candidates after the final interviews and presented Schubert with a 58-page report. Schubert said the committee handled the search carefully and thoughtfully.
“Their comprehensive report was completed strategically and thoroughly,” Schubert said. “Dr. Johnson did a fantastic job leading the group, and I could tell they all made significant contributions to the search.”
Johnson said Rhodes’ lack of experience as a provost in the past won’t hurt his effectiveness in the position at the university.
“We felt Dr. Rhodes had significant academic administrative experience, both from his time at New Mexico State, but especially in being identified as a Fellow of the American Counsel of Education, which is the premier entity for identifying academic administrative leaders and equipping them well,” Johnson said. “What we were looking for was not just experience, but also leadership capacity and skills that fit best for ACU.”
Johnson said the committee is proud of the search and its recommendation and now that its work is done, is looking forward to seeing Rhodes as provost.
“It feels good to see the process come to completion and have filled its intended purpose, to identify an excellent and capable leader for ACU,” he said. “That’s a good feeling. I’m also very grateful to the committee members who invested a substantial amount of time in the process, and to the ACU committee who were involved in the search.”