Feb 27th, 2019, 12:04 PM

Meet AUP's New Provost

By Sage Theiss Sakata
Dr. William Fisher in his office. Image Credit: Sage Theiss Sakata
The Plume sat down with the new provost Dr. William Fisher.

Dr. William Fisher moved to AUP in late July last year and has adjusted easily to his new life in Paris. The anthropologist's work has allowed for many overseas' adjustments to language, culture and even the loss of everyday comforts. "I can think of many places that I lived that didn't have electricity or plumbing," said Dr. Fisher.

Previously, Dr. Fisher worked at Clark University where he was head of the International Development, Community and Education (IDCD) Department which allowed him to experience something entirely different than conducting independent anthropological fieldwork. "You had to move from being a lone ranger anthropologist to becoming somebody who is at the center of something bigger than your own work," said Dr. Fisher. Part of working in this department, Dr. Fisher explains, is setting a mission, goals, and processes that benefit everyone in the whole project. All this he says, prepared him for his new chapter at AUP. 

"I love working with students and faculty at AUP, even more than I expected to," said Dr. Fisher. 

After feeling that he had done all that he could at Clark University, Dr. Fisher had in mind that being a provost was a promising possibility. He started looking into AUP and once he did some research and got to know some of the senior leadership, he was fascinated. "I found AUP a really unique university that has a lot of energy among the faculty, leadership, and students," shared Dr. Fisher. He thinks it is a university on the rise and moving in a good direction. 

Dr. Fisher first showed up for his position on August 1, 2018. He laughs while explaining that a lot of people aren't really sure what a provost is. To clear things up, he explained that the provost is a senior academic officer in a university. Essentially, anything that has to do with academic affairs is the responsibility of the provost. Thus, he is in charge of faculty, teaching, courses, and really just overseeing a large portion of the university.

Part of this is having an academic vision. "The vision I have is a university that is global and interdisciplinary which relates to the communities it interacts with," said Dr. Fisher. He explains that an American style of education which is situated globally comes with opportunities to provide an education where students are able to be very problem orientated in the kinds of things they are interested in. Thus, students are not just interested in social sciences or anthropology but interested in the problems that these disciplines address. "They are interested in how you take a holistic perspective," said Dr. Fisher.

Image Credit: Sage Theiss Sakata 

"I've been here almost one semester and if I had one disappointment it would be that I interacted with students less than I would have liked," said Dr. Fisher. 

Dr. Fisher explains that his next step is to regularize the way in which he interacts with students, formally and informally. He has plans to interact more with student gatherings and hold regular meetings with student leadership. He explains that he did this at Clark University, which was very successful as it allowed for feedback from the student body. Dr. Fisher would also like to have monthly open office hours where students can come for a short time slot. He explains that while student leaders might already feel that they can come in and talk to the provost, the open office hours would allow for discussion with any students who want to bring an issue to the attention of the Provost. 

Dr. Fisher also explains that communicating with students is important for addressing their educational needs. "Current students have good assessments to give you about their own experience," said Dr. Fisher. However, he notes that identifying educational needs has to be a multi-pronged ongoing process. AUP students face challenges that are different from other students at universities. While AUP students come in with some advantages because they speak more than one language and easily are able to adapt to different kinds of cultures, they are still faced with the challenge of living in a different culture and operating in more than one language. 

Dr. Fisher explains that raising international recognition for the institution can be challenging. Part of this is making sure employers know that your students are well educated, that they will be good employees and make a positive contribution; all of which all can be difficult when you are a small university. Dr. Fisher believes it is important to make sure that students are well prepared for the various types of careers and also well placed so they can make a good impression on employers. "This, in the long run, raises your reputation more than anything," said Dr. Fisher. He notes that this isn't something that is going to happen overnight.

While undergrads graduating from a liberal arts institution go into the job market with an array of skills, Dr. Fisher explains that they don't always know what those skills are or how to talk about them when applying for positions. "It's important to help students think about how they have matured and what skills they have acquired and how to communicate that in a way that employers are interested in," said Dr. Fisher. He explains that this is a different type of dialogue that students might not be used to. He says that the Global Professional Skills Program (GPS) is an approach to this challenge. 

Dr. Fisher had a very busy first semester getting up to speed at the university. However, whether provost or professor, Dr. Fisher will always be an anthropologist. "It permeates my approach to being a provost as well as what I do outside of being a provost," said Dr. Fisher. He is always fascinated by other cultures, where he is living and learning about people, and coming to Paris is a whole new opportunity for him as an anthropologist. The majority of his fieldwork was carried out in Nepal and he has plans to go back. The provost is also a passionate foodie. "I love everything about food: cooking, eating, interacting with people, understanding how people interact over food," said Dr. Fisher. While he can't narrow it down to a favorite dish, he loves Dal Bhat which is the national dish of Nepal.