Hawkins, Gutierrez receive new titles
A recent reorganization of Liberty University’s Provost’s Office has changed Provost Ron Hawkins’ title to provost and chief academic officer, and a new co-provost will oversee online academic programs.
According to Hawkins, his move from vice president for academic affairs to chief academic officer is a clarification and redefinition of the provost’s role, not a promotion.
Hawkins’ new title is a direct result of Ben Gutierrez’s promotion to co-provost and vice president for academic affairs. Gutierrez’s title of “co-provost” led some people to believe there were two provosts, so he and President Jerry Falwell decided to re-name the position.
“(President Falwell) gave me the new title of provost and chief academic officer, that way it’s clear I am the senior academic administrator for the university,” Hawkins said. “So I’m still over the whole of the academics at Liberty.”
The larger shift in responsibility in the provost office instead comes from Gutierrez’s new position. Previously, the provost office was separated into undergraduate and graduate sections with no one focused solely on Liberty’s online education.
Falwell therefore promoted Gutierrez to oversee the growth of Liberty University Online, which comprises approximately 85 percent of Liberty’s student enrollment.
Gutierrez was assigned to the position because of his experience with online education that he gained through overseeing the growth of Liberty’s under graduate education.
Hawkins also said he believes he has identified a candidate to fill Gutierrez’s old position of vice provost for undergraduate education. Hawkins noted the candidate has worked at Liberty for a long time and already has leadership experience at the executive level — finalizing the appointment is the last step.
As for Hawkins, he said he does not plan to relinquish his title of provost in the foreseeable future, and there is no official succession plan currently in the works for the position.
“The president and I have an understanding,” Hawkins said. “He has said to me, ‘Ron, you serve as provost as long as you want, and when you’re ready to retire, you should notify us and we’ll start looking for another provost.”
For right now, Hawkins said he wants to focus on improving the academic reputation of the school in order to better compete with other universities academically. Hawkins cited Liberty’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, law school and school of divinity as major divisions the school has added that have improved Liberty’s standing among other schools, but said more can be done.
“We’re still a relatively young school,” Hawkins said. “We came from very humble beginnings, and people haven’t really caught up to where Liberty is yet.”
Liberty has previously invited several new partnerships to its campus. One such partnership involves the Fulbright Program, an educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government wherein the U.S. State Department pays for approximately 5,800 students to study abroad per year. Liberty recently sent Fulbright scholar, Dr. Michael Jones, to Romania and hopes to send more faculty and students in time.
“I’m very impressed with our students,” Hawkins said. “The quality of students at Liberty over the years has improved continuously as measured by SAT and ACT scores. What is particularly gratifying is that the passion for serving Christ and others has continued unabated.”
Liberty’s most recent accreditation report revealed Liberty students scored, on average, a 1043 on their SATs, which nearly matches the national average of 1083 for college-bound students in 2015. The average composite ACT score for Liberty students exceeds the national average by 1.9 points (22.7 to 20.8 respectively).
Hawkins said he sees top-tier professors as one of the keys to building Liberty’s academic improvement, and said one of Liberty’s greatest assets is its faculty, many of whom have earned terminal degrees from some of the most prestigious universities in the United States and abroad.
“In the future, we will continue to focus on hiring faculty who are able to motivate Liberty students to achieve academic excellence while at the same time motivating them to serve Christ and others with a commitment to values and performance that will distinguish them in the marketplace,” Hawkins said.
More than anything, though, Hawkins said he wants his legacy to be marked by continuing the foundational biblical mission of Liberty that separates it from other universities.
“I count it a real privilege to be entrusted with ensuring that the legacy that Dr. Falwell Sr. birthed and that his son has ushered to maturity continues to prosper at Liberty University,” Hawkins said. “My greatest joy has been to reproduce the vision and passion that is embedded in the Liberty DNA to other administrators and faculty who are entrusted with creating the Liberty University of the future.”
YOUNG is the news editor.