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MSU Denver welcomes new provost

Alfred W. Tatum, Ph.D., is a longtime educator, advocate, literacy theorist and champion of faculty research and development.

By Lindsey Coulter

January 14, 2021

Alfred Tatum, Ph.D.Metropolitan State University of Denver is pleased to welcome Alfred W. Tatum, Ph.D., as the University’s new provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. Tatum brings 18 years of higher-education experience to the role and will officially join the University community March 16.

“Dr. Tatum has dedicated his career to advancing the same values and ideals that are the foundation of MSU Denver: equity, access, excellence and student success,” said President Janine Davidson, Ph.D. “He’s also proven to be a tireless faculty advocate who is deeply committed to relationship building and inclusive leadership. I am very happy to welcome him to our community.”

One of the nation’s preeminent scholars of African American boys’ literacy development, Tatum began his career as an eighth-grade teacher in Chicago after receiving his bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University. He later earned his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Chicago and was dean of the university’s College of Education from 2013-20. He also served as a department chair, reading-clinic director, Ph.D. program coordinator, director of graduate studies and professor. During his time in academia, Tatum has authored or co-authored three books, four major reading-and-writing programs and 77 academic papers and publications.

“I am driven by a deep moral compass to shatter inequities that interrupt positive life-outcome trajectories. That’s how I came into education,” Tatum said. “That (philosophy) has shaped my teaching, my research and my community engagement.”

Tatum has used his positions to advocate for an exceptional educational experience for undergraduate and graduate students, placing an emphasis on growing his institutions’ research infrastructure and supporting departments to develop geographically responsive programs and courses. As a leader, he also has focused on increasing faculty, staff and student diversity, improving facilities, nurturing community engagement and supporting professional and research development to move faculty through the academic ranks.

Tatum and his wife of more than 25 years will soon move to Denver. Their sons, an entrepreneur and an aerospace-engineering student at the University of Illinois, will remain in Illinois, where Tatum owns a farm. He looks forward to learning more about Denver’s culture, people and institutions.

As he prepares to join the Roadrunner family, Tatum spoke with the Early Bird about his goals, what drew him to MSU Denver and what’s on his reading list.

Early Bird: What excited you about the provost position and about MSU Denver?

Tatum: I became attracted to MSU Denver because of its unbending commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion … and uncompromising focus on excellence. I have a great deal of kinship with that mission.

MSU Denver also appears to have the right algorithm: to exercise good for our broader humanity and to support individuals to achieve their supreme aspirations. I look forward to being a part of that. I’m excited to become a “Roadrunner on the Move” to inspire all within MSU Denver to serve ends larger than themselves. I think this is how we collectively “Reimagine Possible.”

Early Bird: What do you want to accomplish in your first six months at MSU Denver?

Tatum: I have to become familiar with the (University’s) culture. I want to be an unassailable advocate for the faculty. I want to make sure we pay attention to an exceptional educational experience for students, and ultimately I want to work closely with President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., to catalyze the clearly articulated goals in the 2030 Strategic Plan.

Early Bird: How will your background as a literacy theorist and pragmatist enhance your leadership as provost?

Tatum: I am intellectually curious. I am excited to wrestle with new ideas. That is really the hallmark of supporting faculty and students. My goal is to celebrate and advance the scholarship of the faculty while ensuring that we have a powerful academic infrastructure. I found that whether it’s elementary education or higher education, if we create environments of great consequence, our students will appreciate our efforts.

Early Bird: As a literacy expert and advocate, what is on your reading list?

Tatum: I read a minimum of 5 pounds of books per month. Initially, I used an actual scale to weigh them, but over time I’ve gotten an idea of what 5 pounds feels like. Last month, I read about algorithms and facial profiling. This month, it’s sports autobiographies and Nobel Prize-winning authors. I have been struck by “The Afternoon of a Writer” by Peter Handke, and I just read “A Different Way to Win” by Dan Rooney. It’s a business text that has huge implications for how we think about diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education.

Topics: Academics, Arrivals and departures, Hiring, Inclusive leadership, President Davidson

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