Montana State University

Robert Mokwa appointed interim executive vice president of academic affairs and provost for Montana State University

May 16, 2016 -- MSU News Service

Dr. Robert Mokwa will serve as MSU's interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost beginning June 20, 2016. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham   High-Res available

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Tel: (406) 994-4571

Robert Mokwa, head of the Department of Mathematics at Montana State University, has been appointed interim executive vice president of academic affairs and provost.

“Dr. Mokwa has balanced his passion for research, teaching and service with an active advocacy for faculty interests and affairs. He is well respected and well known by the university’s faculty and deans,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “His calm demeanor, thoughtfulness, affable nature and familiarity with life in the classroom, in the department head’s seat and in the administration make him well-suited for this appointment.”

Mokwa will start his new role on Monday, June 20. As interim, he succeeds Martha Potvin, who is leaving MSU after five and a half years for the role of provost and vice president of academic affairs at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.

“I am inspired by this opportunity and look forward to working with the deans and faculty to continue on our mission of delivering the highest level of academic excellence in all that we do and to help our students be as successful as possible,” Mokwa said.

Mokwa has been with MSU since 2001 when he joined the College of Engineering’s Department of Civil Engineering. Mokwa received the MSU President’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2014, the Faculty Award for Excellence for the College of Engineering in 2009, the College of Engineering Outstanding Instructor award in 2002 and has served as a MSU Faculty Senate chair.

Beginning in the fall of 2013, Mokwa was an integral member of the state-wide task force that designed and successfully implemented a performance funding budget allocation system for each public university and college in the state. Mokwa is on the Montana Math Pathways taskforce and is chairing the Montana University System Corequisite Initiative, which is restructuring the way colleges in Montana deliver developmental math and English/writing courses to improve student success in first-year gateway college courses. Mokwa is past chair of the Montana University System Association of Faculty Leaders.

Mokwa led a one-year project that involved reorganizing and merging MSU Extended University’s for-credit courses and programs into the same system that is used at MSU for conventional face-to-face courses, which are budgeted as state-supported, base funded courses. Mokwa’s work group successfully completed the reorganization in the fall of 2015. For-credit online courses and online academic programs are now managed through the Provost’s Office and administered by the Registrar and the University’s Budget Office to provide consistency and scalability to efficiently manage the anticipated growth of online courses and programs, which are key objectives in Montana State’s strategic plan.  The reorganized model ensures that all MSU students, whether on-campus or online, are supported by the academic colleges and are included in the university’s enrollment data and full-time equivalency calculations. 

Mokwa is also the chair of the University Online Learning Council; chair of the University Athletic Council; past chair of the University Academic Programs Review Committee; a member of the MSU Leadership Advisory Council and the MSU Joint Academic Governance Working Group. Mokwa recently led a capital campaign fundraising development project for the College of Letters and Sciences. 

In 2014, he was named MSU’s first Faculty Leadership Fellow. In that role, he was a member of the president’s executive group for a year during which he studied the policies, administrative structure, budget and decision-making processes of the university. Following his year as a fellow, he was appointed the head of the Department of Mathematics in the College of Letters and Science.  

Mokwa teaches classes and conducts research in the areas of geotechnical and geomaterials engineering, engineering education, soil mechanics, slope stability and seepage, deep foundations, X-ray computed tomography and soil-structure interactions. He has authored more than 60 peer-reviewed journal papers, research reports, engineering design manuals and laboratory testing guidelines on these topics. Mokwa’s doctoral research involved analyses and full-scale testing of deep foundation pile groups and pile caps exposed to large lateral loads. Results from this work are now applied in the design of foundations to support large bridges and multistory structures. In January 2015, his research on materials sustainability received a national award from the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials for high value research.

Mokwa’s research has garnered international interest. He was a sponsored invited speaker at the Micro-Geomechanics Across Multiple Scales Workshop, held in Cambridge, England. This workshop was jointly sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the United Kingdom Engineering and Physical Science Research Council and brought together selected geo-professional leaders to discuss research needs and the future direction of discovery and applications for the geomechanics discipline. He has given numerous invited talks, including a plenary presentation at a conference and workshop at MSU’s sister University in Kumamoto, Japan, where he described his work with x-ray computer-aided tomography to an international audience of leading researchers and experts.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a master’s degree from Purdue University and a doctorate from Virginia Tech. Prior to earning his doctorate, Mokwa worked as a professional engineer and manager for a large multidisciplinary, international consulting firm. Mokwa was an assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Massachusetts until he joined MSU as an assistant professor in 2001. He is a licensed professional engineer in the states of Montana and Idaho.

Mokwa was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Nicki, have three teenage children, Rosemarie, Michelle and Benjamin. 

Contact: Tracy Ellig (406) 994-5607,; Robert Mokwa (406) 994-3604,

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