Provost Cheryl Jacobsen to retire

Provost Cheryl Jacobsen to retire

Cheryl Jacobsen, provost and academic dean, joined Loras College in the fall of 2001 working in the Center for Experiential Learning Office.

“I remember sitting in a committee meeting about general education and coming out and hearing about 9/11, and thinking that I don’t know this campus very well,” said Jacobsen about one of her first meetings at Loras. “I wondered how we were going to handle this horrendous thing that happened. What came out of September 11th was people taking care of each other and a lot of conversations about how to use education to help people understand what was happening. Although that was a very dramatic start to things, a lot of what’s happened since then was certainly less dramatic and positive in different ways.”

This dramatic moment was just the beginning at Loras for Jacobsen, who later would take on the challenging responsibility of provost and academic dean. But after 14 years of serving the college, she is ready for a new chapter in her life.

Although her move to Loras was inspired mainly by the new set of general-education requirements, Jacobsen also wanted to emphasize the value of creating a high-quality experience for students by improving the quality of instruction in the classroom.

She has been a catalyst for some major changes designed to enrich the quality of learning. She is adamant about not take sole credit, saying she celebrates in the achievements of students and faculty.

“We’ve done a number of things on the academic side to improve instruction and make courses challenging for students because students can always do more than they think they can,” said Jacobsen.

One of the major changes was the introduction of J-Term, which was not an option before Jacobsen joined the college. With her previous experiences with both J-Term and May Term, she believed that J-Term would work better at Loras.

“J-Term tapped into a lot of things that were already going on like experiential learning, study-abroad, and connection between service and learning,” said Jacobsen.

Another fingerprint of Jacobsen is the newer Loras tradition of an opening convocation.

“Opening convocation was something else that I started in part because we didn’t have any big way to welcome students back in the fall,” said Jacobsen. “For the first couple years I was here, students just trickled back, and it seemed to me we ought to make a big deal out of beginning the year.”

Other changes that took place under Jacobsen’s watch included a change in faculty load, from eight courses per year (divided equally between the spring and fall semesters) to seven (divided between the fall, spring and J-Term). This gave faculty time to develop their courses more deeply and allowed them to figure out how to include an experiential-learning component.
Jacobsen approached her job with one major objective: integrity. In her own words, she approached her work by taking “care and thinking through a decision or process so that you get as close to being fair in that process and honoring other perspectives.”

While her job, by definition, primarily involves working with faculty, her happiest memory was the first Legacy Symposium in 2014.

“It was being celebrated when the college was old and the symposium was new, and there was a dynamic quality during the day in which students could talk about what they were learning,” said Jacobsen.

Over the past 14 years, a lot more than the curriculum has changed. These changes also have been matched by the physical changes of the campus.

“I could look down over the hill of campus. I could see the clock tower in Hoffmann Hall and the banks of Mississippi on the Illinois and Wisconsin side,” said Jacobsen.

Whether it is the physical layout of the campus or the college curriculum, Jacobsen recognizes the need to adjust and embrace change.

“I hold an aspiration for the college to continue to create a high-quality experience by challenging students and yet giving them what they want,” said Jacobsen. “A liberal-
arts education is important in teaching students not only how to prepare for a career but also the different ways of thinking and adapting to change.”

Post-retirement plans for the provost include reading, traveling and spending time with family.

Meanwhile, Fr. Doug Wathier, professor of religious studies, has been named interim vice-president for academic affairs.

Fr. Wathier received his S.T.D. (Sacrae Theologiae Doctor) from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, with an emphasis on the transmission of revelation and the act of faith. He previously was the director of the Breitbach Catholic Thinkers and Leaders program and has been a member of the religious studies faculty.

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