Provost candidate Richard Rothaus kicks off first of five open forums for finalists


Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Richard Rothaus stands in front of a bookshelf covered in faculty projects and books Sept. 17 in Anspach Hall.

Interim executive vice president and provost, Richard Rothaus gave a speech on Feb. 25 at the first of five open forums for the provost finalists.

In his discussion, Rothaus addressed the main goals he would focus on as provost including excellent residential experiences, high quality graduate and professional programs, targeted online programs and transfer students.

“My approach is to make sure I know enough to bring together the teams of professionals and experts,” Rothaus said. “My talent is to bring to pull together the right people and provide the space for them to guide offices, programs, colleges, and the university.”

Rothaus said it is easy to imagine a future with more virtual learning because it is already happening. He emphasized the need to continue strengthening online programs as students’ expectations are changing.

“We can imagine a future where students take many of their courses online in their university housing and come out for their labs, gamified courses, events and projects with faculty, poetry readings, symphonies, research partnerships, student clubs or other events,” he said.

He said fewer in-person classes will require other ways to keep students busy. 

Rothaus said residence life – the core generator of CMU’s revenue – is part of that vision. But he said updates to housing is only one of many enrollment solutions in addition to a student call center, maroon and gold dinners, and increasing transfer students.

He said transfers are in a “lull” right now.

“Two-year school enrollments have crashed as a result of COVID and low unemployment rate,” he said. “Clever institutions should be losing the lull to clean house streamlines processes and get ready.”

He emphasized the importance of graduate and professional programs because they bring in a renewable stream of students and often act as feeders to other programs.

“Many undergraduates arrive think they will be nurses, but end up in other majors in the university,” he said. “While graduate and professional programs are not inexpensive, when linked to the market and when linked to partners for research critical clinical and other placement, they can lift up an entire institution.”

He said benefits created by the college of medicine are coming to fruition.

“We’re just now beginning to see the full potential of the interrelationship between the medical school and the whole campus including research, recruiting and links to the programs in the other colleges,” he said.

Audience questions

One audience member asked Rothaus how he plans to unite student affairs and academic affairs.

“My vision is a much tighter integration,” he said. “It’s just wide open. What could we do? What should we do?

Another person in the audience asked how he foresees CMU’s academic landscape in five years.

“We’re going to have to shift from a ‘we have less money’… approach to intentionality,” he said. “And research is one of those.”

One audience member asked Rothaus what his role in supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts is and has been in his former roles.

He referenced work he did with tribal communities in the Dakotas and specifically his time as consulting archeologist for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. He said he believes it is more important to amplify marginalized voices, than his own.

Rothaus said it is important for the provost to exercise the “power of presence” and listen to others.

In response to a question regarding increasing enrollment, Rothaus said he would like to adjust curriculum to add courses that make it clearer to students how they will graduate and get a job in addition to ensuring students, like those in liberal arts, complete at least one internship prior to graduating.

Lastly, he answered a question about increasing internationalization saying he would like to emphasize recruiters not only domestically, but around the world.

Rothaus background

Rothaus started at CMU in 2018 as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and currently serves as interim provost. Prior to joining CMU, Rothaus worked at North Dakota University System as vice-chancellor of academic and student affairs and director of academic programs. 

Rothaus also worked at St. Cloud State University and has held various positions within the field of archaeology.

He obtained a bachelor’s degree in English and classics from Florida State University, a master’s degree in classics from Vanderbilt University and a doctorate in history from Ohio State University.

Upcoming open forums

Monday, February 28, 2022

Abby Parrill-Baker

2 p.m. - 2:50 p.m.

Bovee UC Auditorium

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Amy Thompson

1 p.m. - 1:50 p.m.

Bovee UC Auditorium

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Parwinder Grewal

3 p.m. - 3:50 p.m.

Bovee UC Auditorium

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Nancy Mathews

1 p.m. - 1:50 p.m.

Bovee UC Auditorium