Blake appoints two professors to interim positions in provost’s office

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Imani Cheers, who will serve as the interim senior associate provost for undergraduate education, is the first Black woman to serve as SMPA’s associate director.

Provost Brian Blake announced Monday officials will appoint two professors to serve as interim vice provost for research and interim senior associate provost for undergraduate education, effective next month.

Blake told faculty in an email that Carla Berg, a professor of prevention and community health, will serve as the interim vice provost for research and Imani Cheers, the associate director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, will serve as the interim senior associate provost for undergraduate education, both starting June 1. The interim appointments are steps in Blake’s restructuring of the provost’s office, which began last summer.

Terry Murphy, the former deputy provost for academic affairs, stepped down from the role last year as officials eliminated the post and Blake prepared to reorganize his team into six concentrations, each led by a vice provost.

Blake said as the search for a permanent research vice provost continues, members of the Faculty Senate and other “research-active” faculty requested for officials to install an interim holder as soon as possible.

He said Berg previously taught at Emory University’s public health school before 2019 and successfully secured funding from sources like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Berg also developed a collaborative, interdisciplinary program on chronic disease prevention and has experience in fostering “inter-programmatic” research both at Emory and GW, he said.

“Overall, Dr. Berg’s track record demonstrates her commitment to working alongside colleagues to coordinate and enhance research supports and infrastructure in order to promote team science and strategic transdisciplinary collaborations,” he said in an email.

Blake said the search for a permanent research vice provost is “progressing well,” and the search committee will continue meeting into the early summer as officials vet and narrow the pool of applicants.

He said Cheers, the newly announced interim senior associate provost for undergraduate education, will serve for one year and officials will evaluate provost’s office organization “later this academic year” before initiating a search for a permanent choice.

After eliminating the deputy provost position and creating new vice provost roles in undergraduate education and graduate studies, the provost’s office temporarily absorbed those responsibilities to save costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Blake said. Administrators are now in a position to fill the undergraduate role with the approaching fiscal year, he said.

Blake said Cheers’ new position will focus on creating and maintaining programs that will improve student satisfaction and retention to form a “dynamic” learning environment for students and advance University priorities.

Cheers arrived at GW in 2013 and became the first Black woman to serve as SMPA’s associate director. She also is an associate professor of media and public affairs and associate professor of digital storytelling.

Blake said Cheers is a faculty in residence at the Mount Vernon Campus and co-founded a mentoring system in 2018 for Black members of the GW community, titled “Sisters in the Academy.” She was awarded GW’s Graduate Mentoring Award in 2017 and the Staub Excellence in Teaching Award in 2019.

“By touching all areas of the community through these various roles, Dr. Cheers has both a broad and deep knowledge of the University that will make her very effective in supporting undergraduate students in this role,” Blake said.

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