New provost appointed

Dr. Laura Hartley announced to fill provost position

Julia Battishill, News Edtitor

As interim provost Bruce Congdon puts it, Seattle Pacific University has been poised and ready for a big change all year. With the announcement of Laura Hartley as the new provost, that change has begun.

“That’s what this year has been like. Student success efforts, and counting down to the new provost taking office,” Congdon said.

“This is a really exciting time now to know who that person is, and expect to start interacting with her a bit.”

University President Daniel Martin announced Hartley’s appointment as SPU’s next provost via campus-wide email on the afternoon of Feb. 20. Hartley will officially take office July 1, 2020.

“First and foremost, I would say [I am excited about] being at a Christian university that is as diverse as SPU is, and that is really trying to be intentional about what it means to live into that diversity,” Hartley said.

“I know there’s work to be done there, and I know there’s good people doing that work … I’m excited to join in that, and make SPU a more welcoming and inclusive community for all students, as well as faculty and staff.”

She was one of three candidates selected from a larger pool by the Provost Search Committee, with Martin making the final decision to appoint Hartley from those final three.

“Some of the things that stood out in Dr. Hartley were her deep commitment to diversity and ensuring that there was both an opportunity for enhanced learning, as well as a deep commitment to [a] collaborative spirit,” Martin said.

a headshot of a woman
Courtesy of George Fox Marketing Communications

For the committee, it was a matter of looking at the qualities each candidate held and trying to discern which matched best with the institution’s culture and vision. They wanted candidates who understood the unique community at SPU.

“For me, I think it was a commitment to liberal arts Christian education: that this person understands what kind of school we are and what we’re trying to be,” Kevin Neuhouser, sociology professor on the hiring committee, said.

“[Also] someone who is committed to collaborative decision making … you need people to be pulling in the same direction, or it doesn’t work.”

Neuhauser also noted an emphasis on Hartley’s experience in Christian higher education and administration, which was an important point for the Search Committee and Martin alike.

Hartley currently serves as an assistant provost at George Fox University, where she is also a dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. She holds both a master’s and doctorate degree in linguistics and has a long history in higher education.

She began at Lesley University in Massachusetts, when she was invited by their provost to become a grant writer. Hartley had opportunities to teach at Lesley, while also working in the administrative sphere of higher education, and she fell in love with both.

“I realized that I enjoyed teaching very much … but I also really enjoyed the academic administration type of work,” Hartley said.

When her husband finished his doctorate degree and got a job as a professor in Philadelphia, she moved again to Eastern University.

Eastern was her first experience at a Christian-affiliated institution, and she spent several years in that position as director of university general education. She found that she especially loved doing administrative work at a Christian college.

After Eastern she moved on to George Fox, and from George Fox to its sister school, SPU.

“The breadth of experience she has, in terms of both teaching but administrative experience as well, certainly gave us great confidence that she is a very strong and capable administrator,” Martin commented.

Hartley is excited for this new opportunity at SPU, and by all the unique qualities our school has to offer.

“I think there’s a real commitment to the community, the culture, and the mission of the institution. So that’s exciting for me,” she said.

As a Methodist, Hartley also looks forward to being at an institution that aligns with those values, though she says she understands and appreciates the wide variation of religious beliefs among SPU’s students.

Hartley said her goals for her time at SPU are to guide and strengthen its sense of mission, and lead it toward the future.

Congdon, with his experience in the provost seat, noted that the vision for leading SPU into the future is a difficult, if rewarding one.

“It is a challenging, exciting but very challenging, set of things that we’re trying to do,” Congdon said. “So my hope for SPU is, under the new leadership and in the future, we can continue to do that with the energy and commitment that we have to this time.”

Congdon and Martin both noted that this transition will be a steep learning curve for Hartley, but expressed confidence in her ability to adapt to the campus. Her fresh eyes, according to Martin, will likely be a strength to the university.

“Our team and the broader campus is committed to working alongside her,” Martin assured.

“My plan will be to enter and really spend time in the first quarter to really try and get to know the community, to listen to the faculty and get to know some of the students,” Hartley said.

“To hear what some of their hopes and dreams, as well as their frustrations, are so we can craft a vision together.”