The consummate provost
Vicki Golich, Ph.D., is great at her job. But what exactly is her job?
August 30, 2018
The most common question people ask Vicki Golich, Ph.D., is this: What the heck does a provost do?
“Somebody recently joked that I could make a bunch of deductions on my taxes and get away with it because nobody has the slightest idea of what a provost is,” she says.
Golich notes that the title was historically used for the person who kept the keys to a jail.
“Not that I’m trying to draw any parallels,” she says, unleashing her trademark laugh.
As chief academic officer, Golich oversees the faculty and staff who deliver the University’s most essential product – education. She helps develop curricula, policies and programs aimed at making sure students have an excellent educational experience. For most of her time at the University, she has also served as the head of student affairs, meaning her reach extended well beyond the classroom.
And yet, her task list – and title – only scratches the surface of her impact on Metropolitan State University of Denver over the past nine years.
Provost as entrepreneur
As a young woman, Golich considered two career paths. The first was following in her parents’ footsteps into academia. The second was opening a small business – a yarn shop.
Golich loved creating things. She made her own clothes in high school and even her wedding dress. To this day, she can do almost any kind of needlework. She sews, needlepoints and knits.
She imagined sharing that skill with the world as a small-business owner.
And while she may have ultimately opted for a doctorate in international political economy and relations, she held on to her entrepreneurial tendencies, too.
She has an uncanny knack for seeing gaps in a system and developing programs to fill them.
A few years after Golich arrived on campus, for example, she noticed that the University had no program to support students who were emancipated from the foster-care system. Her previous employer, California State University San Marcos, had a similar student body and a large, successful program to support emancipated youth. And that meant MSU Denver students were likely falling through the cracks.
Matthew Kring, director of student support and retention in Roadways, recalls how Golich encouraged leaders in his area to create a proposal for a new program, which became Fostering Success (now known as the Educational and Personal Independence Celebrated Scholars Program).
“This is a very vulnerable population of students,” Kring says. “They need additional support, and our program gives them that. It’s been really important for them to have a place on campus they can call home.”
Kring says Golich continues to support the program at the administrative level, but beyond that, she often donates toiletries and blankets for students.
“The most important thing is that these students know they are not alone,” Golich says. “They are not the only homeless students or emancipated students. I thought that if we could build a cohort, and they could be around other people who they can identify with, then they’d stay in school.”
It appears to be working: The program started in 2014 with six students and no full-time leader. Today, it supports 30 students and has a full-time coordinator who was emancipated from the foster-care system herself.
For Lori Kester, associate vice president for enrollment management, one of Golich’s greatest assets is staying connected to the University’s purpose.
“A provost could very easily be removed from the issues that affect students,” Kester says. “But not Vicki. Her mind is always on how we can better serve students.”
Read more about Golich’s work as an advocate for diversity and opportunity and as a champion for MSU Denver faculty, staff and students in the new edition of Metropolitan Denver Magazine, available on magazine racks this week.