UW-Madison’s newest addition to the administrative line-up is confident he can tackle the hard issues.
Currently Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Peter Spear was recently appointed as UW’s new provost and will face a variety of hard-hitting issues as second-in-command at one of the nation’s largest public schools.
UW Chancellor John Wiley, who chose Spear after talking with four applicants who all met with him, other school officials and students over the past two weeks, said Spear stood out from the rest mainly because of his experience.
“He’s just basically done it all,” Wiley said. “All four finalists were very strong, but Peter’s experience makes him the right fit for this campus at this time.”
Some of the issues Spear will be forced to reckon with include various administrative tasks, the quality of the UW institution and the ever-looming task of increasing diversity and multiculturalism at the university.
By far the most-mentioned issue Spear had to heed questions about from students and staff, he is confident he has what it takes to enrich diversity awareness on campus.
“We have very similar issues here at Colorado,” he said, naming the problem “accomplishable.”
Spear’s list of accomplishments in the realm of diversity-related issues include the enhancement of the Minority Arts and Sciences program at the University of Colorado. The program, installed a few years before he arrived at the school five years ago, has been changed under his leadership from a soft-money funded program limited to students in the natural sciences to one that aids more students and has a role in the general budget.
“Over the past five years we’ve created hard money for the program and enlarged it,” Spear said.
The effects have meant a lot for minority students at the school, he said, noting that the graduation rate of students who go through the program is at 82 percent, while the general graduation rate of minority students at the school is around 67 percent.
Spear has also stretched diversity improvement to include gender diversity, increasing the number of women enrolling in science programs and other university realms.
In five years at UC-Boulder, Spear brought the number of female faculty members up from 26 percent to 33 percent.
While officials at the University of Colorado were unable to comment further on Spears’ diversity record, Wiley said he has received “rave reviews.”
“He got extremely high remarks from the people we talked to at Colorado,” Wiley said. “And both students and faculty said there was no question about his drive and commitment on diversity. I am hoping he will [think creatively] and help us out.”
Spear’s experience ranges further than just diversity issues, though.
As a nationally recognized neuroscientist today, Spear, 57, has a long history of education and professional work in his field. Graduating from Rutgers with a degree in psychology in 1966, Spear earned his doctorate in physiological psychology from Yale in 1970, did post-doctoral work in neurology at Stanford and has since written more than 90 publications on his research in the neurobiological field. Spear also has close ties to the UW campus: from 1976 until 1996 he served as a psychology professor, chairman of the Department of Psychology and associate dean for the social sciences in the College of Letters and Science at UW-Madison.
“I am very familiar with the campus and the culture of the campus,” Spear said.
Spear also recognized his long history of administrative offices will enable him to hit the ground running, a gift which is drastically needed with Wiley’s continued departures in search for more funding for the school.