Campus News / Summer 2018

Departing Provost Gregg Kvistad looks to what’s next

In June, Gregg Kvistad concluded his 12-year run in DU’s top academic post. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Since coming to the University of Denver more than three decades ago, Gregg Kvistad has taught classes, conducted research, chaired committees and filled myriad leadership roles: as chair of the political science department, as dean of the Divisions of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and, since 2006, as provost. For the last four years, he also has served as executive vice chancellor.

In June, Kvistad concluded his 12-year run in DU’s top academic post. He expects to allot some time in the coming months to reflecting on his journey — from first-generation college student negotiating the groves of higher education to chief academic officer at an institution on the move. At DU alone, his career has spanned a remarkable transformation in the University’s financial health and academic personality. And as Chancellor Rebecca Chopp notes, he has played a significant role in fostering changes that have enriched the student experience.

“Gregg has always understood the value of an engaged faculty and the role it plays in helping students — and the University — learn and develop,” Chopp says. “His emotional intelligence and authenticity have garnered him respect across campus. And as the architect of our budget and the steward of a rigorous academic culture, Gregg has maintained our core focus on students.”

None of that has been easy. When Kvistad arrived on campus in 1984, fresh from a stint at Wellesley College and an appointment as a research affiliate at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies, he found himself in a setting steeped in financial uncertainty.

“I do remember being told that there was a good chance I would lose my job,” Kvistad says. “That was literally within a week of arriving. I had lunch with the chair of the economics department, who said, ‘This isn’t looking real good for faculty who were just hired.’”

Through the following years — in which “people [were] working really, really hard to try to right this ship” — Kvistad ventured into different roles, beginning, in 1992, by chairing the political science department. With that change, he shifted focus from teaching and research to supporting faculty in their efforts to innovate in the classroom and advance knowledge through research.

Later, as dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, he championed the Marsico Initiative, a campaign aimed at intensifying undergraduate education in the arts and sciences. It resulted in the launch of DU’s celebrated Writing Program and first-year seminars.

Kvistad’s tenure as provost earns kudos from the faculty. History professor Susan Schulten credits him with demystifying the University’s inner workings. “In 2012,” she recalls, “he made the laudable step of holding quarterly meetings with the faculty to review the University’s budget, institutional plans, projections on undergraduate and graduate enrollment, updates on the endowment, resource allocation, and our position relative to our peer and aspirational institutions. These are invariably helpful meetings, and Gregg makes time for them each quarter. That says something about his commitment to keeping the faculty in the loop and addressing our concerns.”

Kvistad leaves the provost’s post with a record of attending to faculty concerns. Since he assumed the job in 2006, the University has increased its faculty by more than 247 new full-time positions. He also has hired all of the University’s current deans.

“Much of academic leadership is about empowering the faculty [and] encouraging them and their extraordinary capacities — academic and intellectual — to lead the University forward,” he says. “That’s what I’ve tried to do in every one of [my] positions.”

Only one academic experience remains on his “try that” list: “I’ve never had a sabbatical in my life,” he says. “It sounds slightly terrifying.”

After several months of sabbatical, Kvistad will move to an office in the engineering and computer science building, and, along with several academic pursuits, he will help prepare for DU’s forthcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign.

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