YOUNGSTOWN YSU picks new provost, prompting praise on diversity

YOUNGSTOWN -- Dr. Tony Atwater, a former television news reporter and now a dean at Northern Kentucky University, will be Youngstown State University's new provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Atwater, who will take the post Aug. 1, will be the first black provost in YSU's 93-year history. The provost is the university's chief academic officer and second in rank to the president.
"He comes with a commitment to the mission of a university like Youngstown State," said YSU President David Sweet, who was to formally announce the appointment at a news conference today. "He shares some of the specific and core values of our type of institution."
Atwater, who could not be reached to comment, was among four finalists who came to campus for two-day interviews in the spring.
Strongest response: "The chemistry was great," Sweet said. "He was very well received and got the strongest response of all of the candidates."
The appointment garnered praise from several corners.
"It's an excellent choice," said Dr. George McCloud, YSU's dean of fine and performing arts and chairman of a campus committee that led the search for the provost. "He's clearly very broadly experienced both as an academic dean and as an administrator at the central level."
Dr. James Morrison, chairman of YSU's Academic Senate and a search committee member, said Atwater was his top choice.
"He has a lot of well-thought-out ideas," Morrison said. "I think he'll be an extremely effective conveyor of what this university is about to the rest of the community and the state."
Strong message: Eugenia Atkinson, YSU trustees chairwoman, and Robert Faulkner, head of YSU's diversity council, said the appointment is a strong message to the university and community that YSU is committed to improving diversity on campus.
"It sets the tone that Dr. Sweet and the university are very serious about the whole issue of having a more diverse university from top to bottom," said Faulkner, vice president of work-force development at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"We've tried so hard to increase diversity on campus," Atkinson said. "Dr. Sweet has been committed to that, and I think this move certainly speaks to his commitment."
Top priority: Making the YSU administration, faculty and student body more diverse has been a top priority since Sweet took YSU's helm in July 2000.
A year ago, black leaders told trustees they wanted to see some solid evidence that the university was committed to increasing the number of minorities on campus.
In May, a report from Ohio Auditor Jim Petro suggested many ways to increase campus diversity and recommended filling a top administrative position with a minority member.
Best person: "I'm obviously sensitive to the priority of diversity, but it did not play a key role in this appointment because we had to go for the best person," Sweet said. "That's the basis for this selection."
"I think we're making a good appointment of a highly seasoned professional," McCloud said. "He is, before any other consideration, an exceptionally qualified individual. The fact that he also is African-American is an additional asset to us all because he broadens our sense of community."
Faulkner said he has heard for years that YSU could not attract and retain black administrators and faculty members.
"This is an example of what you can do when you're really serious about it," Faulkner said. "I hope this is just the beginning of making the university be more like the community it represents."
Administrative team: The appointment completes Sweet's administrative team. Earlier this month, he named Terry R. Ondreyka, associate vice president for finance at West Virginia University, as YSU's new chief financial officer.
Dr. Cyndy Anderson, vice president of student affairs, and Dr. G.L. Mears, executive vice president, remain from the previous administration, though Mears is expected to retire soon.

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