Walking the Walk: Provost Vinson Shares His Perspectives on the Provost Scholars Program
Provost Ben Vinson’s energy is contagious. In conversation, his eyes light up with curiosity and excitement. When the Provost Scholars Program is discussed, this is even more so. This past December, shortly before the 2019 Winter Celebration, Vinson shared some thoughts about the Program that bears his title, and his vision for its future.
“It’s not often times you see a university Provost’s office directly getting involved in community uplift,” Vinson said in recollecting his initial introduction to the program. “When I started to learn more, I couldn’t believe the quality of impact it was having. I think I remember speaking with Dr. Gary, and I just had a huge smile on my face because I could immediately see beyond even the impact here in Cleveland and how such a thing could really transform lives throughout the country.”
Since Provosts primarily focus on the internal workings of the university, Vinson was delighted to know that there was already a program in place that aligned perfectly with the university’s strategic plan to have an impact on community. “I can’t think of a better way to model what we expect in the plan by having a program like this with the Provost’s name. It’s walking the walk and talking the talk,” said Vinson. “In the Provost’s office, you have a different perch. You have a different perspective. You’ve got access to the faculty members and the students and administrators, so the Provost Scholars Program can bring all of that together in ways that other programs might not be able to,” he observed. “The Provost’s perspective is from an entire institution. Any other program might emphasize one slice of the institution over another, but this type of perspective allows you to kind of modulate and offer all of the richness of an institution to a prospective student.”
There have already been several conversations between Program Director Dr. Faye Gary and the Provost about how the program will continue to develop and expand. “I think the academics are key…[and are] elemental and foundational,” said Vinson. “But really, a lot of this is opening the eyes to college life and making sure that college is on the minds of all students in a meaningful way. Everyone has a different route to their higher education. I don’t want to be naïve about that. But sometimes it’s opening the mind to dream. The more opportunities we can do to open our youth to have those dreams and to see the tangibility of what higher education is and to demystify what it is to be in college, I think that’s really something special that we can deliver.”
Regarding the preparations that are being made to expand the program to other institutions, Vinson declared, “I’m inspired by the toolkit that has been put together. I think that’s an incredible resource that allows us to memorialize what we’ve done here at Case Western Reserve, and ultimately to be able to share our experience with others. This is an incredible program.
When asked about how other Provosts might welcome a similar program at their institutions, Vinson predicted that their reactions would mirror his own. “I can see the delight in the eyes of other Provosts as they would consider this opportunity,” he said. “As a concept, who can’t be excited about this? I think [Provosts] are often, in our jobs, not allowed to imagine in this way. And so, a lot of what we do is making sure that we, at an institution, uplift others. Having something that’s actually called ‘The Provost Scholars Program’ puts a unique fingerprint on it.”
Vinson was clear in his testimony of support: “I’m just exuberant about this program. I just think we should sing its praises as often and as widely as we can.”