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Berliner calls on previous experience as provost for an interim period

Berliner calls on previous experience as provost for an interim period

Gail Simmons stepped down from the Provost position at Hofstra at midnight on Monday, Dec. 31. The following day, former Provost and Dean of the Frank G. Zarb School of Business Herman Berliner was appointed to the role for an interim period. 

In an email to the faculty, President Stuart Rabinowitz announced, “Provost Simmons will be returning to the faculty as a full time professor in the Department of Biology. We have agreed that in order to prepare, Provost Simmons will complete her service as Provost as of December 31, 2018 and will then be on leave pending her return to the faculty. Please join me in thanking Provost Simmons for her dedicated service, and in wishing her continued success as a faculty member.”

The University will be conducting a national search for a new provost, Berliner told The Chronicle, using a search agency “just to make sure we’re successful with finding the best person possible.”

Berliner served as provost at Hofstra from 1989 to 2015. During that time, he spearheaded initiatives that kick-started the Hofstra University Honors College, and the the establishment of the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication, the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine and the Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science. Toward the end of his term, he began further developing the nursing and physician assistant studies programs. 

Vice President of Student Affairs W. Houston Dougharty said of the position change, “The Division of Student Affairs looks forward to continued positive and creative collaborations with the Provost’s Office and all of Academic Affairs as we strive to support the success of all Hofstra students.”

The position of provost is one that has behind-the-scenes responsibilities, many of which are unknown to students. When he first became provost more than 20 years ago, Berliner said he called his mother to tell her the news. She responded to him with a simple question, “Son, just tell me, is this a promotion or a demotion?”

“It’s a title that’s very difficult for people to understand,” Berliner said. “The provost at Hofstra is the chief academic officer, the person who oversees all the academic areas, sometimes called the dean of the deans.”

Given the drastically altered social, financial and political landscape of our globe today, the new provost acknowledged that he would be attacking very different challenges now than those of the 1990s.

“Really, this was the transformation of a university that was more or less local to a university now that is very national; and we’ve moved further and further into that – being a national university under President Rabinowitz’s leadership,” Berliner said. 

“For an education in 2019, to really be of maximum benefit to a student, you have to have a global orientation. It’s a global economy, a global business community ... it’s global in terms of society. So we want our students to have that sophistication.”

As provost, Berliner said he is looking to enhance experiential and global opportunities for students across Hofstra’s departments. He plans on placing a heavier focus on study abroad programs and expanding collaborative initiatives internationally, paying mind to the value of hands-on experiences.

The new provost spoke of a similar model already integrated into the business school that makes it easier for students to have a global experience. In collaboration with entrepreneur partnerships in South Africa, Hofstra students are paired with students from the University of Johannesburg to work with startup businesses and provide recommendations for moving the startup forward. The business school followed up with similar programs in Israel, Ireland, South Korea and Switzerland. 

Berliner plans on translating these initiatives into relevant programs for many additional academic facets at Hofstra.

“How do we enhance the University and hold onto the core values?” Berliner said. His answer – experience beyond the classroom.

“What I think enriches the lives of students is to give them more hands-on opportunities, regardless of what their majors are, because I think a good education is not only what you learn in the classroom but what you learn with all those hands-on experiences.”

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