Montana State University

Mokwa named MSU's next provost

April 17, 2017 -- MSU News Service

Robert Mokwa has been named MSU's new Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

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Robert “Bob” Mokwa has been named Montana State University’s new executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, MSU officials announced today.

In his role, Mokwa serves as the second-highest ranking administrator at the university after President Waded Cruzado. He will oversee MSU’s 10 college and school deans, the university’s academic programs, faculty hiring and development, numerous centers and institutes, the WWAMI Medical Education Program and the university’s on-line course offerings through Extended University, in addition to other duties.

“Dr. Mokwa brings a deep understanding of the land-grant mission of research, teaching and outreach to the job. He is a strong advocate for faculty and students as well as a strategic thinker who will enthusiastically lead the university with a focus on excellence in coming years,” Cruzado said.

Mokwa, 54, has been at 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 and the College of Engineering Outstanding Instructor award in 2002. He also has served as a MSU Faculty Senate chair. He was named interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost in June 2016.

“MSU’s faculty and students will be in good hands with Dr. Mokwa,” said Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian. “He is a thoughtful, detail-oriented planner who has worked his way up from faculty to department head to interim provost. He understands the needs of faculty and students. I know he will work hard for their best interests.”

Mokwa holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech, 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. He is a licensed professional engineer in the states of Montana and Idaho.

“I have the highest level of respect for the people, culture and mission of Montana State University and am honored to serve in this position,” Mokwa said. “Our faculty are world-class researchers, educators, scholars, artists, composers, writers – inspirational individuals who care deeply about the impact of their work on our students and the world. MSU embraces the full spectrum of the land-grant mission of teaching, research and outreach. This gives meaning and purpose to everything that we do. This is truly a special place with special people.”

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 Co-requisite 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 Science.

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 head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences in the College of Letters and Science.

Mokwa has taught classes and conducted 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 in 2005. 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.

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

Mokwa succeeds Martha Potvin, who left MSU in 2016 to become the provost and vice president of academic affairs at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

Contact: Tracy Ellig, executive director of University Communications, (406) 994-5607, tellig@montana.edu