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Nov. 13, 2014 Volume 36, No. 12

Final provost candidate speaks of leadership and faculty morale

Garnett Stokes has dealt with a federal investigation of Florida State’s handling of Title IX cases


Garnett Stokes led at Florida State University the creation of a system that rewards high-achieving faculty with permanent salary increases. Photo by Rob Hill.

Garnett Stokes, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at Florida State University, was the fourth and final candidate to participate in an open forum for the University of Missouri’s provost position.

Stokes, who also served as Florida State’s interim president for seven months this year, said Nov. 10 in Lefevre Hall that her approach to the position is one of collaboration. She’s a straight talker but also a “careful decision-maker.”

Her goal as provost has been to build faculty morale, raise Florida State’s research profile and establish the university as a candidate for membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU).

Stokes earned her doctorate in 1982 in industrial and organizational psychology at the University of Georgia. Three years later, she joined the Georgia faculty. From 1999 to 2004, she led Georgia’s psychology department, then was named dean of Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, a position she held for seven years.

In 2011, Stokes became provost of Florida State, a public university in Tallahassee with more than 41,000 students.

To build faculty morale and raise the university’s academic reputation, Stokes launched the Extraordinary Accomplishments Program two years ago. The program rewards high-achieving faculty by giving them permanent salary increases. In a letter to Florida State faculty in June 2013, she wrote that the pay raises were partly to encourage faculty achievements to help the university become “AAU-ready.”

The program’s committee based rewards on metrics established by the National Research Council (NRC). The metrics cover a range of STEM and non-STEM disciplines. There was a two-tier system. One tier involves honors recognized within AAU metrics, such as a Guggenheim Fellowship or a National Medal of Science. The second tier involves honors outside AAU metrics but still significant to the NRC, such as participation in the Fulbright Scholar program or winning the Modern Language Association Prize for a First Book.

“The biggest winners were [faculty] in the humanities,” Stokes said. Last year, more than 100 faculty received merit raises through the program, she said, including an English professor who won a Guggenheim and got a $15,000 annual salary increase.

Stokes said non-STEM faculty need to be recognized for achievements.

“A great university has strengths across many disciplines,” she said. “It is not just about the AAU metrics. It’s also about finding the role that every college plays in creating the reputation of the institution.”

Florida State is among 55 American higher learning institutions under federal investigation for their handling of Title IX cases. During her time as interim president, Stokes experienced “the firestorm,” she said.

Stokes was circumspect on Title IX issues, though she did express the need for levelheadedness. “I believe in being as fair to our students as possible,” she said, “and I believe that decisions can’t be driven by what the media might or might not say.”

In September, Florida Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine) was named Florida State’s president. This week, Stokes returned to her role as the university’s provost.

Asked why she is interested in MU’s opening, Stokes said she’s always heard great things about the University of Missouri. She also mentioned being impressed by Illumination, a science magazine edited by Charles Reineke and published twice a year by MU’s Office of Research.

If you attended Garnett Stokes' open forum on Nov. 10, and did not already fill out an evaluation, please provide your feedback at the following link. The link closes at 5 p.m. Friday.

Besides Stokes, MU’s provost candidates are:

Michele Wheatly, a former provost of West Virginia University who was a finalist for president of Florida State University

John Wiencek, interim provost at Virginia Commonwealth University

• Nancy Brickhouse, deputy provost at the University of Delaware

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin will make the final decision on whom to hire.