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Key university position up for grabs

By Cyndy Cole
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday Jan. 22, 2002

Starting today, UA community can say which candidate should be next vice president for undergraduate education

Two UA administrators are currently vying for the job of vice president for undergraduate education, one of the university's top positions.

The position has been temporarily filled for the last two years, but administrators have had a "help wanted" sign on the door for the duration, as they have been searching for someone to fill the position permanently.

The two candidates for the job know their way around the Administration building.

Patti Ota, the vice president for executive operations and senior associate to the president; and Randy Richardson, who has been the interim vice president for undergraduate education for the past two years, will compete for the position.

Students, staff and faculty can ask the two candidates questions at several forums this week - starting this morning - and give a selection committee their opinions on who should get the job.

Two forums have been scheduled for each candidate so that staff, faculty and students can attend either session. Richardson's forums are today, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in room A313 and 314 of the Main Library. Ota's forums are Friday, during the same hours, in the same rooms.

Whoever is chosen for the position will have a seat on University of Arizona President Peter Likins' cabinet and will be responsible for improving academic advising and finding solutions in a university where enrollment continuously grows while state funding does not.

The Office of Financial Aid, the Honors College and the Office of Admissions and New Student Enrollment are among the areas the new vice president will oversee.

Richardson has been at UA since 1978 as a geosciences professor, associate dean of the College of Science, and assistant, associate and interim vice president for undergraduate education.

Getting the Integrated Learning Center running at to full capacity by hiring approximately 15 employees and bringing in new equipment is one of Richardson's top goals. Others include increasing student retention rates and diversity, intervening early when a student is struggling academically, protecting students' interests as Arizona International College closes and improving academic advising.

A selection committee for the job passed over Richardson once before and chose George Bridges, associate dean of undergraduate education at the University of Washington. Bridges refused the offer.

Richardson cited his leadership in opening the ILC, a drop in academic probations and a large class of incoming freshmen free from course registration or orientation problems as evidence that his performance has improved.

Ota, the other finalist for the job, has worked closely with Likins both at UA and previously at Lehigh University.

Improving academic advising, increasing diversity on campus and cutting bureaucratic red tape so that students can get academic and financial problems resolved are among Ota's goals, she said.

Ota has been at UA for 2 1/2 years but is native to Philadelphia. She worked at Lehigh University for 30 years as an electrical engineering and computer science professor, vice president of academic administration and the interim dean of the business college before following Likins to Tucson.

Likins was president of Lehigh University from 1982 to 1997.

Charles Tatum, dean of the College of Humanities, is chair of the Search Committee, which has already interviewed Richardson and Ota privately. After getting public input at the forums this week, the committee will make a recommendation to Provost George Davis about which candidate to hire.

"The person has to have good management skills interest in undergraduate students and basically a whole lot of heart, a lot of understanding of the travails of a student who comes to the University of Arizona," Tatum said.

Davis is expected to make the final decision in the next two to three weeks, Tatum said.

The position has been open since Mike Gottfredson, the previous vice president for undergraduate education, left to become the executive vice chancellor at the University of California-Irvine in July 2000.

The Integrated Learning Center was Gottfredson's project, said UA spokeswoman Sharon Kha. Whoever becomes the next vice president for undergraduate education will oversee some of the programs within the ILC.

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