Gail Baker announced as new provost

University of San Diego Provost Andrew Allen will leave his office this year after four years in the role. Allen will step down and pass the baton to Gail Baker, Ph.D., from the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO).

Photo courtesy of Gail Baker

Among his other roles, the provost position requires Allen to oversee nine deans, Information Technology Services, the Center for Inclusion and Diversity, the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture, the Karen and Tom Mulvaney Center for Community Awareness and Social Action, and the Changemaker Hub. He explained the position is best summed up as the chief academic officer.

Allen is not moving on from USD. In fact, he is moving down the hallway from his old office for a new position. Allen explained that USD President James T. Harris III created a new position that he will assume.

“President Harris created a new role,” Allen said. “[I will be] Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Initiatives.”

Allen explained that his new position came into fruition because of the Envisioning 2024 initiative. As the Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Initiatives, Allen will help oversee this initiative.

The USD website explains Envisioning 2024 as a long-term initiative to expand campus and the USD footprint in a larger community.

“The plan, which is titled Envisioning 2024, looks forward to USD’s 75th anniversary and charts a course that builds upon our successes in recent years as we aspire to set the standard for a contemporary Catholic university confronting humanity’s urgent challenges,” the website stated.

Allen explained that Envisioning 2024 is about serving a broader community.

“[Envisioning 2024] comes from the idea of being an anchor institution,” Allen said. “How do we better serve the community where we are located? We are already starting in a good place, but what could it look like in 2024?”

In 1984, Allen started as an economics professor and taught classes in the business school for 20 years. He then became a dean before he became the associate provost and, later, provost. Allen has watched the campus expand over the past 20 years, and he explained that there are many changes to come in 2024.

“One of our other goals around institutional effectiveness is the Renaissance plan,” Allen said. “It will renovate the West side of campus.”

Allen explained that the Renaissance plan will see renovations of Camino, Founders, and Copley Library. The plan will also include a couple new buildings, one behind the library and one in the Olin parking lot.

As Allen moves on to a different vice presidency, Baker will assume most of his current responsibilities as provost. Baker will become the seventh vice president when she assumes her position as provost.

Baker comes from UNO where she currently sits as Dean of the College of Communication, Fine Arts, and Media. Baker explained that she was nominated for the position and accepted because of USD’s mission.

“I am impressed with USD’s mission and values,” Baker said. “I am inspired by the notion that the world needs changemakers. The university’s Catholic identity and reputation to excellence also compelled me to look deeper into what USD is about. After reading about the campus and, more importantly, meeting people here, I knew this [was] a place I want to be.”

Baker comes from a background of academia, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, a master’s degree in marketing communications from Roosevelt University and a doctorate in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Baker expressed her excitement to work at USD and learn the campus climate.

“I want to know more about our students and faculty,” Baker said. “I’m anxious to learn about the USD culture. I want to learn about the respective disciplines. I’m excited about learning why students decide to come here.”   

Baker is eager to connect with students and wants to be visible.

“I’m hoping students will help me with [connecting to campus],” Baker said. “I want to be accessible and visible and to hear about their USD academic experiences and what they find distinctive about their USD education. It’s no secret at [UNO] that I love our students and find them inspirational. They energize me and give my work purpose. I will open the lines of communication with students and look forward to hearing from them. I will respond.”

Baker is looking forward to working with the strategic plan and the new core curriculum. The core curriculum is one of Allen’s proudest moments during his time as provost at USD. He explained that the core curriculum was the hard work of professors, deans, and the campus community. Allen said he was proud to see the new core come together during his time as provost.

Allen shared that he is excited to start his new position and is looking forward to working with Baker.

“We are all excited [Baker] is here,” Allen said. “We see ourselves as a team.”

Baker will join the team this July. As the USD community looks to the future, the outgoing and incoming provosts are excited for the new developments with the strategic plan of 2024.

Sarah Brewington | Associate Editor