Interview with Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Cincinnati

Interview with Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Cincinnati

Dr. Eileen Strempel is Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Cincinnati. A Presidential Scholar, Strempel spent the last 15 years at Syracuse University, most recently as assistant vice president with a wide range of academic responsibilities, including strategic planning and student success. She formerly served as associate dean of the Graduate School, where she was a Kaufmann Foundation eProfessor in the department of art and music histories.

An American Council of Education Fellow hosted by Colgate University, Strempel served as principal investigator of a Jack Kent Cook

How did you get started in your career as a Senior Vice Provost?

I’ve been blessed by very special mentors in my career, leaders who were passionate about making a difference and who pushed me to strive to do the same. I began my career as an opera singer, and these experiences helped me understand of the power inherent in integrating and balancing a wide range of talents and perspectives. In opera, people listen, adjust and work together to bring a production to life. This translates when collaborating with a range of academic and administrative partners to bring initiatives to life.

Creating a campus environment focused on inclusivity and excellence for the faculty, staff and students at the University of Cincinnati is at the heart of my work on campus as the Senior Vice Provost. I provide leadership for academic planning, institutional research, faculty affairs and undergraduate affairs. I also lead a faculty and staff professional development program designed to support women’s career advancement –- UC Women Lead — and a faculty satisfaction and development partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Education called COACHE. Regardless of the context, I strive to foster, develop and support the most important resource of our institution: our people.

For the past year I’ve taken part in Leadership Cincinnati, the region’s flagship leadership development program for leaders who are passionate about making a difference in the community. Across sectors as wide-ranging as law, business, development, non-profits, faith-based organizations, governmental organizations and education, a cohort of leaders join together regularly over the course of the year. Being new to Cincinnati, It has helped me better understand the assets and challenges of the region, helping me to more deeply understand how I might apply this knowledge directly to my position at UC for the public good.

What makes your appointment at University of Cincinnati different from your previous leadership positions?

The University of Cincinnati is a public urban university with 45,000 students, and our location provides a wealth of benefits since we share our borders with local businesses, diverse residential neighborhoods, artist communities, medical centers, and city parks. This location provides the university and its faculty, staff and students many ways to engage with the community. For me, the scope of my role combined with being in this vibrant community is a daily inspiration. The scale provides an enormous potential and possibility for positive impact every day. I am continually humbled and challenged to make the most of this opportunity and to inspire others to do the same. No matter what your role, everyone can be a leader and sometimes we all need to be reminded of that.

Dr. Eileen Strempel, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Cincinnati.

What type of initiatives are you leading at the University that will help advance its academic footprint?

As senior member of the Provost’s team, I oversee UC’s aggressive faculty recruitment initiatives to retain faculty in areas of excellence from diverse intellectual traditions and backgrounds to help solve the world’s biggest challenges through leading-edge research and interdisciplinary collaborations. We are currently building cluster hire initiatives in Water, Cancer, Analytics, Digital Media, and Urban Futures.

I also direct the Provost Technology Innovation Awards to spur the development of information technology, computing infrastructure and instructional design to advance the UC educational experience and to keep students and faculty equipped with innovative academic assets.

Just recently, UC launched its Transfer App that helps to make the transfer process of students coming from community colleges into the University of Cincinnati seamless. This app provides students a single, comprehensive and sequentialized reference to help navigate every step of the transition process. Forty percent of our graduates last year were transfer or transition students–and transfer and transition students double the number of graduates from the University of Cincinnati from traditionally underrepresented communities –- so this simple app provides a big service across campus.

Many traditional universities have gone online or are participating in MOOCs. How is the University of Cincinnati using technology to improve its degree offerings to the public and make education more accessible? 

Over 80 percent of our recent graduates have taken at least one online course. It is an area that we are committed to growing and recently invested in expanding the University of Cincinnati’s digital learning initiatives with a nine-year investment of more than $13.2 million and the hiring of a new Vice Provost for Digital Learning. UC Online learning program allows for a more affordable and flexible route towards receiving a degree in higher education. With more people pursuing higher education, online learning is an integral part of the UC’s approach to meeting the diverse needs of students by combining access and convenience with high-quality education.

What types of things do you do online to make sure your students get the same experience as traditional students?

The University of Cincinnati is dedicated to ensuring every student is provided a rich experience within our urban research university. Based on their program, both online and traditional students may take advantage of UC as the birthplace of cooperative education (co-op) in which students alternate traditional academic semesters with one semester spent working full-time in their desired field. This program helps make public education more affordable and accessible. Among the nation’s elite for co-op and internships: UC’s overall emphasis on experiential learning earned the university its spot on the short list of the nation’s best 22 schools for co-ops and internships. UC students earn a collective $64 million annually, working in about 6,000 co-op placements for about 1,800 regional, national and international employers such as Apple, Boeing, Disney, Fisher Price, HBO, NASA, Nike, Toyota and many more.

What type of qualifications and experiences do your faculty bring to the online MBA program, and are they the same people that teach on-campus (in-class version)?

The University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business faculty is comprised of both leading researchers and successful practitioners. Since our campus is less than 3 miles from the world headquarters of Procter & Gamble, Kroger, and Macy’s, we frequently engage with the leadership of those and the city’s other Fortune 500 companies. Many of these multi-national employees also teach and guest lecture in our MBA program – both campus-based and online. The same professors who teach our campus-based MBA program teach our online MBA program. The only difference is the delivery format and the extra flexibility that it provides to our students. With the online MBA program, students from California to New York can engage with the same content that was previously online available to those residing in Cincinnati.

University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business

What types of things do you do online to make sure your students get the same experience as traditional students?

The same professors teach our campus-based MBA students, so although the format of the learning is a bit different because of the modality, the programs are interchangeable. This is so much so that students may literally change from on-campus to online students (and vice versa) without missing a beat should they suddenly move into (or out of) the area. The equity of the two formats is one of the many reasons why both our campus-based and online MBA programs are nationally ranked by sources such as U.S. News & World Report.

Your online MBA program has also been getting a lot of recognition in several publications. What makes your MBA program different from other universities?

Thank you for that shout-out. We’re very proud of the recent accolades that both our campus-based and online MBA programs have received in the past few years. We purposefully keep our program small to better focus on each student’s ability to secure his or her dream job from Day One. Our curriculum is designed so that students select an area of specialization for their MBA in a particular functional or cross-disciplinary area (such as Marketing or Health Care). One of the foundations of our MBA program–like our university as a whole–is our focus on experiential learning. Students don’t just learn from the textbooks – they learn by actually doing while applying their learnings to real-world assignments.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our students’ opportunities to engage with Cincinnati’s business community. Many of our students are surprised to learn that Cincinnati is home to more Fortune 500 companies per capita than New York, Los Angeles or Boston but when they realize the wide variety of companies that hire our graduates, they quickly understand the value of our location.

We learned a great deal about you and your University. If I was a potential student or employer that was stuck between choosing two different MBA programs, what other things would you want me to know about your University and degree program to help with their selection?

Many prospective students and employers aren’t yet aware of all of the national accolades that our MBA programs–both campus-based and online–continue to receive. We’ve earned the largest rankings jump of any MBA program in the country over the past three years in U.S. News & World Report. In 2014, the nation’s top recruiters rated us one of the Top 10 public MBA program in the United States in Bloomberg Businessweek. In 2015, we were ranked the #1 best value MBA in the country based on academic quality, job placement success and affordability by College Atlas and last year we were ranked one of the Top 15 online MBA programs in North America by CEO Magazine. At the end of the day, it’s the academic community that draws students to us: students, faculty and staff come together to embody experience-based learning at the oldest and most established co-op school in the world.