Minghua Zhang stepped in as interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs following an administrative shake-up at Stony Brook University this summer.
Zhang, who started the position on Aug. 1, comes with more than a decade of experience in administration as dean at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) and director of the Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheric Sciences. Though he’s not sure how long he’ll hold the job — the search for a permanent placement was called off indefinitely earlier this month — he plans to “look on the long horizon for the university” with new initiatives geared towards research and overall student success.
Considering the university’s budget constraints in recent years — the university started making “modest investments” this summer after a series of budget cuts — Zhang plans to find ways to generate new revenue, such as with more online courses, and use technology to improve efficiency.
During his tenure, Zhang also intends to, among other things, focus on “research and scholarship” by facilitating individual-driven research projects and by organizing team research “around the important problems in science, in society [and] in the humanities.”
“Given the digital revolution, there are also great opportunities for the science departments to collaborate with the social science departments and humanities departments to lead research that could really improve the lives of people,” he said.
Zhang additionally plans to “optimize the pipeline of student [career advice], starting from the beginning to the end — from welcoming the arrival of the students to engagement starting in the first year.”
His goals are to encourage more students to get involved on campus, help students get into the classes that they want and help them find internship and research placements. Zhang pointed out, for instance, that some programs don’t have “sufficient support” for Ph.D. and graduate students.
Currently, the university offers a career center with career assessments, resume workshops and advising, among other things. An online portal called Handshake, maintained by the university, connects students with potential employers.
Zhang added that he hopes to facilitate more student feedback “regarding how [the university] can help with respect to classroom instruction, extracurricular activities and career.”
“Excellence requires a team effort,” he said.