Dr. Rita Gulstad Named CMU Provost
Veteran administrator first to hold the rank at Central
As a teenager Rita Gulstad told her mother that she would one day work for Central Methodist University. She had no premonition she would one day be its first Provost.
The CMU Board of Trustees recently approved President Roger Drake's recommendation for the change in rank for Dr. Gulstad, who came to CMU in 1991 as its Public Services/Systems Librarian. The change will become official after a second reading at the next CMU Board meeting in May.
"I'm honored that the Board and President Drake have chosen to bestow this title upon me," Gulstad said. "I have always been passionate about Central Methodist. I believe in what we do."
"When an institution is blessed with a leader like Dr. Gulstad, this new structure is an obvious conclusion," Pres. Drake said. "She is an incredible advocate for our faculty and our academic programs, but above all she is an advocate for the University as a whole.
"Her love for the mission of CMU, her understanding of the academy, her willingness to be an innovator, her keen analytical mind, and her ability to think institutionally and work across departmental lines were driving factors in my recommendation to the Board," he added.
Gulstad came to work at CMU in 1991 after three years as a library clerk at the University of Missouri in her native Columbia. She had her bachelor degree from MU by the age of 18, and has two master degrees and her doctorate from MU. But Central Methodist caught her eye at an early age.
Gulstad remembers coming to Fayette as a teenager and being enamored with Central. "I told my mother that when I got my master's degree, I would work at Central Methodist in the library," Gulstad said. That prediction came true, and she's been with Central ever since.
While the title of Provost is new, she will retain her duties as academic vice president and dean of the faculty. In other words, Gulstad won't shed any existing duties, but her scope will increase.
"Dr. Gulstad will have a greater voice in the formulation of strategy and the execution of tactics beyond academics," Drake said.
Gulstad moved from leading the Smiley Library staff at CMU into Dean of Extended Studies and Learning Resources in 2001. By 2006 she was appointed Vice President and Dean of the University.
Enrollment growth on the main campus in Fayette, meteoric growth and expansion of Central's off-campus and online programming, development and expansion of CMU's graduate programs, and the establishment of new majors are just some of the achievements during Gulstad's administrative tenure at CMU.
She considers those accomplishments little more than a byproduct of the real reason for the work done at Central Methodist University.
"At the end of the day, it's all about the students, about their education and the experiences they have while a CMU student," Gulstad said. "What we do – the faculty, the Board, the administrative team, the staff – we do to insure the students have the best experience they possibly can."
Drake, who joined CMU last July, said Gulstad's talents grabbed his attention soon after he became a candidate for the CMU presidency. "I recognized immediately the treasure Central has in Rita," he said. "As I researched CMU, the presence of a stellar academic leader was obvious.
"Personally, I subscribe to the theory that an institution like CMU is much larger than the collective sum of its people," Drake said. "I like to think that no individual is indispensable. As regards myself, I know that to be true. But in terms of Rita Gulstad, that theory becomes questionable."
Never one to dwell on accolades, Gulstad is quick to turn the attention to the tasks at hand. She can rapidly recite a list of priorities that she, and her CMU colleagues, have in their sights.
"We must continue to improve retention for students who enroll both in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and in the College of Graduate and Extended Studies," Gulstad said in reference to CMU's on-campus and extended studies programs, respectively.
"There are a number of new academic programs that we are working to establish. We must continue to support our faculty and students in their academic endeavors. We need to build new partnerships for our off-campus program," she said.
"And I need to be supportive of my colleagues at CMU in their many initiatives," Gulstad said – a clear reference to her broader role as a leader at the university.
Analytic as that may sound, and as focused as Rita Gulstad is, her affection for Central Methodist shines through.
"Other than my work clothes, I don't own anything that doesn't say Central Methodist," she laughed. "CMU becomes a part of who you are. I just can't see myself being anywhere else."
Posted February 24, 2014