Risa Palm says leaving Provost role is no demotion

After 10 years of dedicated work as provost, Risa Palm returns to her faculty research on climate change and natural disasters. Photo courtesy of Georgia State Public Relations & Marketing Communications

After 10 years of dedication to her position, Provost Risa Palm is stepping down from her position. The announcement came to students mid-November through a campus broadcast.

Her decision to step down stems from her desire to return to her research. Before she became provost, she had worked on studying the effects of climate change and natural disasters.

“My research is in the area of cities and previously I was looking at natural hazards like earthquake hazards. Another hazard that is very much a human and an environmental one … is climate change,” Palm said. “It’s not like [a demotion]. I will have been a provost for 10 years and so … it’s time to have someone else to be a provost. That’s reasonable and it’s a philosophy I hold about any administrator position.”

Her main role as provost was to handle the overall academic affairs and interests of the student body by executing the academic strategic plan, an initiative that is enacted roughly every 10 years that influences academic progress for the university.

“When I first got here, it was the first year that [Georgia State University President] Mark Becker was president,” she said. “We put together a committee … and I worked with that committee … over the next [year]. The committee did all the work. I just was there as sort of a resource, but I attended all their meetings and provided them with any kind of support they needed and also got them in touch with some academics that I had known that were involved in strategic planning.”

She said that her job as provost prioritized establishing this strategic plan and that it was the basic foundation for which other plans of the university were built on.

“It’s part of the job of the provost … it’s the strategic plan of the academic area of the university. And then the rest of the strategic planning for space follows what the academics are going to do.”

One of her other roles as provost was to facilitate faculty hiring.

“I and my team interview all faculty who would come in with tenure. So in other words more senior faculty. And also we’ve had two programs to hire faculty. One was called the Second Century Initiative. That’s over now. And now we have … the Next Generation Program which is ongoing. I think we’re in year four of that. That is to hire faculty who are interdisciplinary in their interests,” she said.

She joined the Georgia State family around six months after Becker did. She said it was a pleasure to work with him throughout the past 10 years.

“It has been great fun and I mean that very sincerely. Part of the fun has been through the strategic plan because we’ve used that as a centerpiece for everything we’ve done,” she said.

She also said that during her time as provost, she was able to travel around the nation and world to share ideas on how universities should operate. One of the latest locations she traveled to was South Korea, where she exchanged university operating ideas and said she tried octopus.

Currently, the university has not announced any candidates for the provost position, however a team of faculty and staff is being established to recruit a qualified individual.