Montana State University
Archived Spotlight story
October 01, 2010 -- MSU News Service

Martha Potvin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of biology at the University of North Dakota, will be the next provost and vice president for academic affairs at Montana State University in Bozeman, MSU officials announced today.

"Dr. Potvin will be a wonderful addition to our university," said MSU President Waded Cruzado. "Her background and qualifications make her an excellent fit for MSU. Dr. Potvin has ample experience, and she thoroughly understands the role and responsibilities of a successful provost."

Potvin will assume her duties in January, said Doug Steele, MSU's vice provost and director of MSU Extension who served as chairman of the search committee.

Potvin, 57, has a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Connecticut, a master's degree in botany and plant ecology from Michigan State University and a doctorate from the University of Nebraska in ecology and evolutionary biology.

"Among the factors that influenced me to accept the position was the ambitious vision of President Cruzado, the similarities of Montana State University to the University of North Dakota, including its deep commitment to serving the needs of the people of Montana, the dedication and productivity of faculty despite their relatively low salaries, the increasing focus on student success, and the opportunity to help to achieve 'One MSU,'" Potvin said. "It was during my visit to campus that I became convinced that I have had many leadership experiences that would transfer well to MSU. I am excited about the opportunity to support its continuing commitment to excellence in teaching, research and service and its aspirations to advance its stature as one of the nation's premier research institutions."

Potvin is in her 10th year as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Dakota. She began her career as a biology professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. During her 16 years at that institution she taught population biology, plant systematics, plant communities, wetlands and field botany while rising through the ranks to become interim dean of the university's graduate studies and extended education. She joined the UND in 2001, also increasing her administrative responsibilities during her years there. She became dean of the university's largest college, which excels in teaching sciences and is also the major provider of liberal arts courses at the university. She has served as UND's interim provost and vice president for academic affairs for one year. Potvin is president-elect of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, a national organization of about 1600 deans, associate deans, and assistant deans in the liberal arts from about 450 degree-granting institutions.

Steele said the 21-member search advisory committee, composed of representatives from throughout the MSU system, was pleased with the response to its national recruitment efforts for the provost position. The committee conducted the search with the assistance of Bill Franklin and Julie Tea of Academic Search, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm.

"The search committee is excited about the appointment of Dr. Potvin as the next provost, and we look forward to working with her in advancing the academic, research and engagement agendas of Montana State University," Steele said.

Steele noted that Potvin received glowing recommendations from individuals who worked with her in the past for her ability to establish priorities, measure outcomes and provide strong leadership within the university setting.

Potvin was selected from a pool of 73 candidates who applied for the position, and she was one of four finalists who visited the MSU campus in September. Steele said all of the finalists had exemplary academic and administrative achievements. In addition to Potvin, the other finalists were: Kevin Carman from Louisiana State University, Sandra Woods from Colorado State University and Jeff Wright from the University of California, Merced. One of the finalists, Sandra Woods, withdrew her name from consideration.

"I would like to thank all of the members of the search committee, as well as members of the campus and Bozeman communities, who attended the candidates' open forums," Cruzado said.

Potvin will succeed Joe Fedock, who has served in an interim capacity since David Dooley departed MSU last year to assume the presidency at the University of Rhode Island.

Doug Steele, (406) 994-1750 or dsteele@montana.edu