Thinkers Group

Meet the Thinkers

The Thinkers were selected from over 150 applications. At the core of their work will be listening and pondering input from our entire community. The Thinkers were chosen by the President’s Council for their abilities to be bold, creative, constructive, solution-oriented, and so much more. Get to know them below.

Eileen Anderson-Fye: Eileen has been a tenured faculty of two schools at Case Western Reserve in the service of building multidisciplinary programs. Eileen cares passionately about the wellbeing of the whole person-in-context in her research, and for students, staff and faculty.

Diana Bilimoria: Diana is a person who is deeply interested in making the world a better place. 

John Flores: John's research examines inequality, and he believes that another world is possible and desperately needed.

Umut Gurkan: Umut is a Provost Scholar Mentor and is very passionate about promoting science and engineering in young kids. Umut also loves participating in scientific art competitions.

Ronald Hickman: Ronald is known for expanding boundaries and futuristic thinking. He hopes to build a learning community that prepares scholars for the challenges of the future and enhance the lives of people locally, and abroad.

Kathryn Lavelle: Kathryn’s first job at Case Western Reserve was as an office temporary in the medical school where she worked typing grant proposals for professors between college and graduate school. She’s seen many sides of the university as an employee!

Kurt Stange: Kurt believes that one individual can make a difference, but what is transformative is the power of the collective, and working across boundaries.

Paul Tesar: Paul brings a multi-faceted, Cleveland-centric perspective to the Thinkers group. He is a Cleveland native, a Case Western Reserve alumnus and faculty member, and founder of is a Cleveland biotech startup company.

Dustin Tyler:  Dustin has been at Case Western Reserve for 27 years. He sees this process as the first real chance in his time at the university to reignite the innovative character of the university that has historically driven it to worldwide recognition and acclaim.

Dawn Ellis: Dawn enjoys sharing stories. For Dawn, discovering the “hows” and “whys” of people's lives helps her to connect with what matters most for each of us. This is what excites her most about this process.

Michael Householder: Michael is interested in thinking about—and listening to how others think about—Case Western Reserve as a place that values learning, excellence, inclusion, happiness, and doing good.

Joan Schenkel: Joan has a broad range of educational experiences. She is the product of a liberal arts education, which she credits regularly for her ability to adapt to new situations, act strategically, ask compelling questions, think globally, and synthesize different points of view.

Naomi Sigg: Naomi believes that in order to cultivate a vibrant and thriving campus, it is important to think about the needs, interests, and concerns of all members in the community, paying special attention to those whose voices are often silenced.  

Molly Watkins: Molly has taught at universities both in the U.S. and abroad. She moved into administration when she joined Case Western Reserve seven years ago, giving her an appreciation for, and understanding of, the intersection among academic affairs, student affairs, and administration.

Monica Chavan: Monica hopes to encourage the university community to pursue a future committed to the defense of general education requirements and the promotion of interdisciplinary work.

Michael Douglass: Michael is interested in focusing on the undergraduate experience and empowering students to embrace a “lifelong learner” attitude that they’ll always credit to Case Western Reserve.

Jinle Zhu: Jinle is a first-year undergraduate and also a transfer student, so she has been exposed to higher education trends and difficulties at multiple universities.

What they do

These individuals serve as the provost’s core advisory group for identifying and assessing strategic choices for Case Western Reserve’s future.

They participate in some of the larger conversations and events that are part of this process, gather additional information through readings and interviews, and also meet regularly with the provost to talk about themes, challenges and opportunities emerging from the process. Finally, they will make recommendations about the final few Big Ideas and Directions that the university will pursue.

In addition to regular conversations with the provost, these individuals meet with the campus community on occasion and also embrace the ideals of openness and transparency. 

This group interfaces with the campus community in reading, learning, thinking and coming together through events all around campus. See a list of resources to help inform these conversations.

Who they are

The Thinkers possess a deep passion for the work of higher education, and a strong desire to see Case Western Reserve realize more of its substantial potential.

They are inherently optimistic, insatiably curious, and exceptionally eager to hear others’ perspectives. In addition, they welcome opportunities to engage in highly generative conversations—that is, ones where one idea or comment builds on another, and another until the final concept is markedly better because of everyone’s participation.

They also appreciate the cognitive, cultural and emotional aspects of organizational shifts, and take into account the steps needed (timing, communication, scale, etc.) to help ensure that new initiatives have the full opportunity to succeed.

They see change as an opportunity for growth and improvement, and recognize that a rapidly changing environment requires a willingness to challenge the status quo.