On Feb. 24, The Spectrum and Student Government (SG) hosted a conversation with Provost Robin Cautin in the Martire Forum. For students, it was an opportunity to ask questions, and for Cautin, it was an opportunity to hear directly from the student body.
The first question asked was one Cautin even admitted to not knowing herself when she was an undergrad. What is a Provost?
“Provost literally means chief academic officer. I work very closely with the president and I oversee all things related to academics,” said Cautin. “Technically, I am a vice president of the Sacred Heart cooperation in legal terms. It is a huge responsibility and I really enjoy it.”
Since being announced provost at the end of October 2021, Cautin has been busy focusing on taking on new tasks and challenges. One of those tasks is leading the strategic planning process for the university from 2023 to 2028.
“I think Sacred Heart has a great story, and now we are at a critical juncture nearing our 60th anniversary,” said Cautin. “The challenges are many however, I do believe Sacred Heart is poised to take them on.”
In addition to leading the strategic planning process, Cautin will also focus on expanding the center for teaching and learning, which will now be available for both faculty and students.
In the expanded center, she said students will be able to advance and excel with tutoring. Meanwhile, faculty will have the opportunity to learn new teaching strategies and how to use different digital tools in the classroom.
“We hope in the coming years to develop a more robust professional development around teaching for faculty, but also continue to develop programs to enhance students and maximize their success in the classroom,” she said.
Another student asked, ‘What should a student do if they are struggling in a class?’
“If you’re struggling, the one thing to not do is nothing. Too often students hunker down, not seeking advice or guidance making them fall further behind,” said Cautin. “First, go to office hours, meet with your instructor, don’t be afraid to say, ‘I’m struggling’, be specific and be proactive.”
“So many faculty I’ve spoken to really appreciate it when a student can initiate that process and not wait. There is so much respect in realizing that you need help,” she said.
Cautin then posed a question for the students, “Each college has an associate dean for student success. How many of you know who that person is in your college?” she said.
When not one hand was raised, Cautin realized there was a problem.
“There are a lot of people whose job it is to support you in your learning, an associate dean is your point person for student success. There is so much support for your success, but you have to know what’s available,” said Cautin. “We can do a better job of communicating with you who those resources are and how to get in touch with them.”
“I feel like I’ve really been in situations and classes where I wasn’t getting as much I could out of it,” said senior Kaylee Bowman, SG Vice President for the Council of Clubs & Organizations. “Knowing administrative people like that is just helpful to better your education and better the school in general.”
In addition, Cautin is also launching new efforts focusing on mental health.
“Faculty have expressed to me in various ways, over the past few months what can we do when we see a student is struggling emotionally,” said Cautin.
Dr. James Geisler, Director of Counseling, will present initiatives and discuss mental health to all faculty on campus.
“We are basically helping and supporting the faculty in understanding these issues,” said Cautin. “We are equipping them with the skills and confidence to support students.”
Cautin also emphasized that faculty, student bodies and school boards will continue to be engaged with diversity.
An initiative that Cautin established recently was the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging advisory council (DEIB). The council consists of individuals from every division in the university, including faculty, staff and students.
Caution said the school has hired an outside consulting group to help assess where Sacred Heart is with respect to diversity and inclusion, where the school wants to go and how they will get there.
“All these baselines are being established. There will be surveys going out to the entire community, including alumni and trustees, so stay tuned,” she said.
Cautin hopes for more conversations like this in the future, along with even some informal discussions to get to know the students.
Some students left the event feeling excited to have learned about the recourses available, and even more optimistic knowing they have someone looking out for them.
“I love how just really cool, relatable and friendly the provost was. I don’t think I would have ever reached out to her or thought about it beforehand,” said Bowman. “She was really nice, so it was really special to learn about all the extra resources we have on campus because of her.”
For others, the new initiatives are what they took away from the event.
“This event made me learn more about Provost Cautin’s background and more of what her future vision for the university is, and how we are establishing more of the diversity, equity and inclusion on campus,” said senior Benjamin Bello.
For one student, the event not only left them optimistic for the university’s future under Cautin’s leadership, but also left them thinking about a new possible career path.
“Prior to today, I did not know what a provost was, but now seeing what it is has opened my mind up to a potential career path that I never honestly thought of,” said senior Samantha DeLiguori, SG Vice President for Finance.
“At the end of the day, my job is about students learning,” said Cautin “Are we delivering on our promise and are we providing you with varied and engaging impactful learning experiences, both inside and outside the classroom?”