Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel has appointed Martin Abraham, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, to replace Teri Riley as interim provost.
Though Abraham publicly criticized the Board of Trustees last spring after being eliminated as a candidate for the position of university president, Tressel said Abraham’s relationship with the university’s administration remains intact.
“We believe that Dr. Abraham has the skills, the experience and the confidence of the campus and the community to fill this important role in leading our outstanding academic enterprise,” Tressel said in a press release.
Since then, Abraham echoed Tressel’s sentiment, saying that his relationship with the administration has been mended.
“You can’t be effective if you hold grudges. I’ve put it behind me. It would appear based on their recognition, or their interest in having me as provost that they have put whatever might have been behind them,” Abraham said. “I think it’s largely behind us. I think we’ve all gotten together, recognized where there is an opportunity to move the university forward. We’re going to work together as a team to make that happen, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
On Monday, Tressel met with Abraham to discuss the possibility of his advancement. After he serves as interim, Abraham may become the permanent provost.
“You might say that was the first time that I knew [Tressel] was considering me to be provost,” Abraham said. “Our current plan is that we are not doing a search now. In fact, I was in the president’s office when he was talking to somebody else and he was very clear with me that this could turn into a permanent position.”
Abraham’s appointment — announced on Wednesday — is still pending approval by the Board of Trustees. Board Member Ted Roberts said he has “no reason to believe” that Abraham’s appointment will not be approved.
Tressel’s decision to appoint Abraham to the interim post comes just two weeks after finalists for the provost position visited campus. Harry Meshel, a member of the Board of Trustees, said the search for a permanent provost is on hold.
“There will be no continuation for the moment. In the Board, [the search] committee is at pause now that they provided those four names,” Meshel said. “I think the president wanted to have someone in there currently, and therefore, made the temporary appointment of Mr. Abraham.”
Roberts added that he expects Abraham to serve as interim provost through this academic year, indicating that a permanent provost will be named “probably not until next year.”
“This search is completed, as far as I understand it, and if we need another search, we will determine that in the future,” Roberts said.
Riley was notified Tuesday that she would return to her former position as associate provost; she expressed confidence in Abraham’s ability to take over as interim.
“When President Tressel came in, his decision was to move forward with the provost search. And, as a result of that search, his decision was to not appoint any one of those four candidates that came to campus, but to appoint Dr. Abraham in the role … as interim,” Riley said. “I’m confident that Dr. Abraham will be able to move academic affairs in the direction that we need to move in.”
Though Riley said she learned from her experiences as interim provost — specifically about how the individual colleges function — she said she looks forward to serving the university as associate provost.
“[The interim provost role is] a very challenging position; it was a rewarding position, but it’s a very challenging position,” she said. “I had an opportunity to learn a number of things that I didn’t know before so that’s always good … I was glad I had the opportunity to serve, and I hope I have the opportunity to serve effectively, continuing my role as associate provost.”
Abraham said he has mixed emotions about leaving his former position as dean of STEM.
“It’s the excitement of moving on to new challenges, but the disappointment of leaving behind people you’ve come to really appreciate. It’s certainly mixed emotions … looking forward to the tremendous opportunity that I’ve been given but despair of having to leave behind what I’ve really enjoyed doing for the past seven years,” Abraham said.
Abraham said that his vision, as interim provost for the university, is to get students excited about attending the university.
“Our challenge is to make YSU a destination of choice for students. To do that, we have to get better at what we do. The president’s favorite phrase is ‘increase excellence’ and he’s absolutely right,” Abraham said. “We have to increase our own excellence so that students are excited to come to YSU.”