New UA provost ready for added responsibility
New UA Provost Jacqueline Lee Mok doesn’t mince words about how she feels in her new position. “Lucky,” she said. “I feel really lucky.”
Mok was named the UA interim provost in July, after former Provost Meredith Hay departed for a position with the Arizona Board of Regents. Mok will hold her position throughout the ongoing search for a long-term president, which is expected to take about a year. She will then retain her position until a long-term provost is chosen.
During her time at the UA, Mok has held a variety of positions, starting in the College of Fine Arts and serving most recently as senior vice president and chief of staff in the president’s office.
Mok said the biggest challenge she has faced thus far is trying to manage her dual positional responsibilities. Even though she has been promoted to the position of provost, she continues to fulfill her duties as vice president and chief of staff in the president’s office. Though she said the additional responsibilities provide an extra challenge, she feels lucky to have the support and expertise of her fellow administrators.
Mok said her top priority as provost is to help new UA President Eugene Sander accomplish his number one goal, which is to strategically position the UA in a way that makes it attractive and accessible to a new long-term president. She also said that, as provost, she would focus on advancing UA academics in a way that aligns with institutional goals.
“In my head is the student voice,” Mok said. “I’m always wondering how are students being supported, how are faculty being supported, and how can we continue to support them while we look ahead?”
Part of that foresight is continuing to update and revise the UA’s transformation plan, the most recent version of which was adopted under then-President Robert Shelton in 2008. Mok said that it is in the planning stages. She also said meetings will be held to work with the broader campus community and ensure all voices are heard throughout the process.
“It’s all about choice,” Mok said. “Why do students come here, why do faculty members come and stay here? How do we optimize ourselves and hold on to the values of what makes the UA distinct? In strategic planning, it’s important we remain clear about what our values are.”
While Mok acknowledged the UA’s recent budgetary struggles, she said it is important to use these challenges as reminders of what is most important to the university.
“It’s just reality that we are living in resource-constrained times,” Mok said. “And what’s most important in these times is adhering to the vision to say ‘I’m going to find a way to shift and find a balance that allows us to grow and invest, even when the state investment is not as great as it once was.’”
Mok also expressed confidence in Sander to lead the UA during this transitional period.
“He is going to be a brilliant, absolutely brilliant, president for us,” Mok said.
She also said her and Sander’s long experience at the UA provides a different measure of stability for the institution.
As for the student body, Mok had a simple message: “We’re so glad you’re here at the UA. You are our promise. And I want to do my best to live up to your promise.”