Message Regarding an Academic Leadership Transition, 4/23/20


Message Regarding an Academic Leadership Transition, 4/23/20

Dear Drew community,

I write today to announce that, after 20 years of dedicated service to the University, Provost Debra Liebowitz will be leaving Drew in order to become the provost at Quinnipiac University, a private university in Connecticut that serves more than 10,000 students in its College of Arts and Sciences and eight professional schools. Deb’s last day “at” Drew will be June 12.

Since I met Deb in 2014, I knew that she had very strong leadership potential. This appointment is a culmination of her work at Drew as a scholar, teacher, advocate, partner, team-builder, steward, and collaborator with students, faculty, staff, trustees, senior leadership, alumni, and community members alike. All of us in our extended Drew family will miss Deb’s leadership, commitment, and spirit; however, it’s clear that the Quinnipiac position is the next and proper step—and a wonderful opportunity—in her trajectory as a university leader.

Deb joined the Drew community two decades ago as an assistant professor of political science and women’s and gender studies. Two years later, she received the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. Deb steadily progressed up the academic ladder, directing the University’s women’s and gender studies program, chairing the CLA’s diversity committee, playing a leadership role advocating for LGBT students, leading Drew’s lauded U.N. Semester program from 2006 to 2010, and directing the Thomas H. Kean Summer Intern Fellows Program from 2008 to 2014. Deb also led the team that developed our international relations major, and served on many other committees.

She achieved the rank of full professor in 2015. Around that time, Deb began taking on administrative duties, first as associate dean for curriculum in the CLA, where she led the redesign of the first-year undergraduate experience, increased academic opportunities and partnerships, and created structure for and managed the development of Drew’s 2016 Middle States Commission on Higher Education Periodic Review Report.

Then as associate provost, Deb fully evaluated the University’s academic structure with the goal of creating an integrated leadership architecture, which led directly into her 2017 appointment as provost and dean of the CLA and Caspersen School.

Deb brings myriad skills and attributes to her work each day, among them: she has a broad and deep skill set; she recognizes issues that needs to be addressed, and then addresses them; she holds strong opinions, while being open to the opinions of others; she values the things we hold dear; and she deeply cares about Drew—and always will.

Under her leadership as provost, Deb implemented a division-wide approach to redesign Drew’s academic structure while reducing administrative expenditures, created an integrated academic leadership team that successfully brought the programs in the three schools more organically in concert with the academic direction of the University, created an academic program development process that was evidence-informed and responsive to market dynamics, led the multi-year development of Launch, strengthened the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies to turn around declining net tuition revenue and worked closely with the leadership of the Theological School to do the same, enhanced digital learning and integrated support for digital scholarship and pedagogy, and oversaw the hiring of the most diverse cohorts of new Arts & Sciences faculty in the University’s history.

When Deb and I spoke about her departure from Drew, she expressed the bittersweet nature of the decision, especially during this challenging time—even as it reflects, for her, the great strength and care of our exceptional community. She noted how truly fortunate she feels to have been a member of the Drew family.

While Deb and I have often discussed her career trajectory—and I know that this is the right move for her at this time—the “times” are not normal by any means for higher education and for Drew. The COVID-19 environment creates a uniquely challenging set of circumstances for leadership. Extant pressures in the higher education sector, coupled with unprecedented near term uncertainty, require that I make decisive and immediately actionable and confident decisions, including decisions about the leadership of the Academic Affairs division of the University. I firmly believe that neither interim leadership nor outside leadership would be the best option for Drew’s academic division at this time. As such, I am currently setting down the final details of a plan that relies on internal leadership. It is my intention to share details with you next week.

Please join me in expressing deep gratitude to Deb for her outstanding service throughout her 20-year tenure at Drew, and in wishing her only the best in her new position at Quinnipiac. Our current situation prevents us from meeting in person to send Deb off. Instead, we will reach back out with virtual options to do so; stay tuned.


MaryAnn Baenninger
President of Drew University