Kevin Carman tossed his guitar in the car a couple of weeks ago and set out on a 2,100-mile journey from Baton Rouge, La., to Reno. He is now settling into his office and preparing for another journey, this one at the helm of academic and outreach programming for the University as the new executive vice president and provost.
The former dean of the College of Science at Louisiana State University, Carman isn't planning to spend all of his time behind a desk. As provost, a position often described as a university's chief academic officer, he is planning a "listening tour" to get to know the people and places on campus.
"I want to be as visible as possible," he said. "I'm hoping to visit each department this spring to hear concerns and ideas - and to let people get to know me. I want to be available to students, faculty and administration, and the community."
"One of the things that impressed me right away about the University of Nevada, Reno is the level of engagement," he said. "There's a palpable enthusiasm and commitment that you don't see in other institutions, especially in light of, and in spite of, a very challenging period over the past few years."
He shares the enthusiasm for the future and commitment to the University.
"Primarily, I will bring a very strong work ethic and a desire to move the University along, what is already, a very positive trajectory," Carman said. "I have much to learn about the University, and my specific goals will come into focus as I learn more. I am very eager to get to know the University community and to begin developing meaningful working relationships and friendships."
A number of items top Carman's to-do list. He said the fundamental issues are much the same for all higher education institutions - such as the challenges of increasing enrollment to reach a broader, more diverse student body, while also enhancing graduation success rates.
"Student success is at the core of it," he said. "Some broad goals will be to enhance student success, facilitate and promote research with a particular emphasis on multidisciplinary research, and communicate the importance of the University and higher education in general to legislators and citizens of Nevada. We cannot maintain the status quo and see success; we are on the right track."
"I enjoy advancing the mission of the University at a high level and having the opportunity to help colleges, departments and individual faculty fulfill their missions of providing outstanding educational and research opportunities for students," he said.
That said, while Carman looks to be involved, he won't be intrusive.
"I'm not a micromanager." he said. "The deans know their programs; I want to help them do their jobs as an asset and an ally. Sure, major decisions will go through me, but I don't want to undermine the deans' authority."
He said he doesn't think too much in timelines, but outlined some immediate issues that he will work to move forward.
"There are some creative ideas and options we'll soon bring to the faculty in updating general education requirements," he said. "With the hiring of a new vice president of research, we'll have an opportunity to build on what's been accomplished and make positive changes with some reorganization of the department. The position is vitally important to our research mission. I'll encourage economic development and pursue directions that can directly affect the economy. We can't always find a cure for cancer or have an immediate practical application of research, but bringing in big research grants helps the economy by hiring people - providing jobs for grad students and technicians."
Carman said he is a big proponent of the residential university concept, and looks to continue expanding these opportunities. At LSU, he established a Science Residential College for entering freshmen, a concept similar to the successful living-learning communities here at the University. He also wants to increase supplemental instructors to help professors and do something the University has not tried yet, boot camps.
"Academic boot camps, a week of intense orientation for new students, have shown success at LSU and elsewhere, and the College of Science will be instituting a pilot program here next semester," he said. "It's been shown that boot camps dramatically increase academic performance and student success rates. Students are taught study habits, time management, guidance in particular courses and even financial management. Students who go through boot camp are twice as likely to graduate in their major. We give them tools for success."
As the chief academic officer, Carman will oversee the University's six colleges, the Division of Health Sciences, Division of Extended Studies and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
"Kevin's focus on enhancing the student experience and student success strongly aligns with the commitment and direction we have set here in Nevada," said Marc Johnson, University president. "He brings an impressive breadth of experience, and it is apparent that he shares our aspirations for further enhancing the mission and role of our University."
"I am humbled and honored by this opportunity to join the University of Nevada, Reno family and to be a member of President Johnson's leadership team," Carman said. "This is a great institution with a wonderful legacy, and I am excited to be part of what I see as a very bright future."
Carman's research interests are in the area of marine ecology and ecotoxicology. He serves on the editorial board of International Scholarly Research Network Oceanography and previously served as subject editor for Aquatic Microbial Ecology. Carman is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has also received numerous citations for outstanding teaching.
"I miss the classroom and research, though I'm still part of an active project studying the effect of the oil spill in the Gulf," he said. "I taught last spring, I enjoy it, and it really helps me get the pulse of the students. With my new duties, though, teaching and research will have to wait."
Carman, a Kansas native, said he has been in the West before, and much of his research as an oceanographer was done in Monterey Bay on the coast of California. Besides the rigors of the job, he's looking forward to getting to know the region. He and his wife, Susan Welsh, enjoy hiking, and he hopes to do a little golfing.
"Susan and I have always loved the American West, and we look forward to exploring and enjoying the natural beauty of the region," he said. "On the drive out here, I left flat ground behind in San Antonio. Driving through Nevada, I was a bit surprised by the mountain ranges. There was always a mountain on the horizon, and the small towns I drove through reminded me of Kansas, where I grew up in small towns.
"Obviously, from a geographic and cultural perspective, there are substantial differences between southern Louisiana and northern Nevada. I do, for example, expect that the gumbo in Reno will be quite different from what we have become accustomed to."