UW-Madison’s newest addition to the administrative line-up is confident he can tackle the hard issues.
This summer, UW chancellor John Wiley appointed Peter Spear, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder, as UW’s new provost.
Wiley, who chose Spear after talking with four other applicants, other school officials and students over the past two weeks, said Spear stood out from the rest 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 the quality of the UW institution and the task of increasing UW’s diversity and multiculturalism.
Spear is confident he has what it takes to enrich diversity awareness on campus.
ASM Chair Jessica Miller said she had high hopes that Spear will accomplish his goals.
“He’s talking a lot about being committed to diversity,” she said. “Hopefully that will be truthful. Hopefully it is not just rhetoric.”
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’s 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 areas.
In five years at Boulder, Spear brought the number of female faculty members up from 26 percent to 33 percent.
While officials at 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.
As a nationally recognized neuroscientist, Spear, 57, has a long history of education and professional work in his field. Graduating from Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1966 with a degree in psychology, 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 psychology department 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 plans to take over Oct. 1 for current interim Provost Gary Sandefur, a sociology professor.