Speed School Dean Neville Pinto is set to take over for Provost Shirley Willihnganz when she steps down over the summer, and he is already considering what his new role will look like.
Pinto, as Speed School dean, has been widely touted by U of L President James Ramsey in recent months. He handled projects such as the GE FirstBuild Microfactory and the Belknap Applied Sciences Research Park.
However, his job is about to get a lot bigger.
“Typically, interim appointments are made with the intent to ensure that there’s a continuity,” he said. “You don’t go into this position just to make sure things are running on time. You’re making sure that the momentum that has been built up for the university, its educational goals, its research and scholarship goals, its community impact goals, are all accomplished in this period.”
The projects he will have to continue include the General Education review, the new $80 million Belknap classroom building, University of the 21st Century initiatives and more.
“We want to make sure that when students come in here, that they have a first-rate educational experience and that they are successful with their objectives,” said Pinto. “There’s a lot of initiatives that are underpinning that student success, and so I have to ensure that that continues.
“It’s about keeping the university moving forward.”
He foresees a challenge in continuing the rise in graduation rate U of L has experienced, but acknowledged its high importance.
“We have still a long way to go,” he said. “That is a really big challenge, because our university is about access as well. We want to make sure that those who have a different path to higher education are supported in their goals.”
Pinto’s background in engineering may cause him to face questions from Arts and Sciences faculty, who have often spoken out at faculty forums about not having a voice in university matters.
“We have to ensure that we educate our students at a level that they can be leaders in society, so my views are not different from what Provost Willihnganz has,” said Pinto. “I have a deep appreciation for a classical university education, and I’ve benefited from it, so it’s what I believe in.”
He mentioned that his prior experience as the dean of the University of Cincinnati’s graduate school helped lead him to this.
“It covers all disciplines. Fundamentally, you’re advancing and you’re advocating for the creation of knowledge, for learning, and for the highest level of education at a university,” he said. “That really informed my thinking, because I was exposed to all aspects of the University of Cincinnati. It was a tremendous educational experience for me.”
With 30 years of educational experience under his belt, Pinto said that he has kept the same goal from his time as an assistant professor to now.
“My defining principle has been in anything that I do, ask the question ‘Is it good for the students?’ To me that provides really clear thinking in any of my responsibilities,” he said. “The clarity that it provides has been enabling for me. It makes, for me, the decisions very easy. It’s very student centered, and that’s what drives me.”
He said he has always placed students first and will continue to do so as interim provost.
“I take responsibility for every one of my students.”
As Speed School dean, he encourages student to knock on his door with any problem they might have. He said he hopes to carry this philosophy with him to Grawemeyer Hall.
“Of course it’s much larger, and I probably can’t meet with every student,” he said. “But if it’s a situation that it will make a difference for a student, I will.”
At this time, there are no details about a national search for a permanent provost.
“Those are usually pretty lengthy searches,” said U of L spokesperson John Drees.
According to spokesperson Mark Hebert, it will likely be talked about after Pinto’s interim appointment begins.
“I don’t think those discussions have even started yet,” he said.
Photo courtesy / The University of Louisville