Chet Haskell, DPA, joined Antioch University in August 2018 as the Interim Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and University Provost. Common Thread conducted an interview with Chet after his month on this job!
AU: Antioch is a distinctive institution with roots dating back over 160 years. What do you feel is most compelling about our mission and purpose?
CH: Higher education in the United States is a form of public good, meaning society as a whole benefits from the education of individuals. It is not just the individuals themselves who benefit. For this reason, higher education is supported in various ways, including Federal financial aid to students and private non-profit institutions like Antioch also benefit through their tax-exempt status.
Institutions of higher education thus have responsibilities to society as a whole. Antioch goes a step further in that its mission and programs are directly focused on enhancing basic principles that undergird society such as social and economic justice. Antiochians not only see their education as a means to their own improvement but also as a way to contribute to and improve the society around them. This stands in contrast to many other institutions of higher education.
AU: As our readers can see from your bio statement below, you bring decades of higher education experience, from well-endowed to resource-poor institutions, from the nation’s most prestigious to some of the smallest. What elements of your experience do you feel are most relevant to the work of this coming year?
CH: My work over many years has convinced me of several things that most definitely relate to Antioch: the core purposes of higher education, comprehensive approaches to enrollment management, focusing with quality on what an institution does best, and the value of professional education.
Students and faculty are at the core of institutions of higher education. The capacity of students and professors to work together in pursuit of knowledge is the main purpose of higher education. Institutional administrative and financial structures exist primarily to create the best possible environment to support this central activity. Universities are not hierarchical, corporate bodies that channel decisions and actions from the top down. Rather, they are more collegial and consensual in nature. Administrators do not order faculty members to do certain things. Governance is shared between faculty and administrators. It is interesting to me that most university organizational charts do not include faculty or students.
At the same time, academic institutions are complex and face numerous challenges – financial, regulatory, legal among others – that must be addressed effectively if the institution is to survive and prosper and therefore have the capacity to fulfill its educational mission. Managing these challenges while respecting the centrality of the academic functions is not easy.
Antioch University, like most private non-profit institutions, is heavily dependent on enrollments, so, quality matters, both the quality of the students and the quality of the academic programs. This means Antioch University needs to offer a wider-ranging set of high-quality programs that can only prosper with equally high-quality students. A comprehensive approach to enrollments recognizes that building enrollments goes beyond attracting the right students in the right quantity. The institution must also concentrate on supporting students so they have the means for their success. Student retention is thus vital. Thus, everyone in the institution is engaged in supporting enrollment management. It is not simply the job of the recruiting and admissions staffs but also faculty members, administrative staff of all types and institutional leaders.
No institution can do everything. Academic institutions must focus on what they can do best, building quality and enhancing their students. Institutions like Antioch University have significant resource constraints that can only be addressed by focusing on quality.
Finally, I believe in professional education – education for people who go out into the world to accomplish their objectives and to serve society. I believe that graduate students in particular bring vital contributions to the table when they enter a degree program. Their experiences are central to the educational process of their peers and to themselves.
My career has been marked by experience in all of these areas and I hope to be able to apply what I have learned in ways that will benefit Antioch. I am pleased to have the chance to bring my experience to help support a university with such a worthy mission.
AU: If I were interviewing you at the end of the year, what do you hope to be able to say you have accomplished?
CH: I hope to be able to use this year to help Antioch address a wide range of organizational and academic challenges, setting the table for whomever becomes the future VCAA/University Provost. I would like to think this can be done to assist not only the person chosen for this position, but to help Antioch University best understand the roles and expectations for academic leaders and the opportunities that brings.
AU: What do you think are the biggest threats to an institution such as Antioch University?
CH: Like most of private higher education, the biggest threats to Antioch University are financial. Lacking a large endowment or alternative sources of revenues, Antioch is dependent on tuition revenue and thus enrollments in a climate that is highly competitive. At the same time, many people see higher education strictly in utilitarian terms. Antioch’s vision of a broader educational experience in service of social justice is, unfortunately, outside the mainstream of American thought.
Antioch must also address internal threats, especially those due to its complex matrix structure so that it organizes itself most effectively and efficiently in pursuit of its mission.
AU: What would you like Antiochians to know about you that they wouldn’t know from your bio?
CH: Higher education is a calling, not a job. Practically, I am deeply engaged in international aspects of higher education. I believe higher education is part of the path to equity and justice globally, not just in the US. Personally, my wife and I share a longstanding professional commitment to the cause of higher education, while we adore our dogs (the Labrador Retrievers, Molly, and Sam), books and the Boston Red Sox.
As a leader in a range of academic institutions, Chet Haskell has had experience in virtually every aspect of college and university administration. He has served as president of two small institutions, as a dean in a medium-sized university, and in a range of senior-level positions at two large research universities. Throughout his career, he has been actively engaged in developing a wide variety of international programs in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
Dr. Haskell consults on a range of higher education issues with universities in the U.S., Mexico, and Spain and with private corporations in the higher education space. He also is very active with accreditation matters in California (WASC), Mexico and internationally and serves on the advisory councils of two Spanish accreditation and quality improvement agencies.
For more than seven years, he was President of Cogswell Polytechnical College in Sunnyvale, California, a small baccalaureate institution specializing in the art and engineering of the digital media industries. Previously, he served for more than three years as President of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the premier U.S. graduate institution for translation and interpretation studies, as well as programs in international teaching, public policy and business.
At Simmons College in Boston, he was hired by the Board of Trustees in the absence of a president and provost to serve as Dean of the College and de facto provost to oversee the 1300 student undergraduate college, nine graduate programs in education and nursing, and the entire university student support operation.
Dr. Haskell served in a variety of high-level administrative positions over more than 13 years at Harvard University. He was executive director of the Center for International Affairs (now the Weatherhead Center), special assistant to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Associate Dean of the Kennedy School of Government and founding Executive Director of the Harvard Academy of International and Area Studies. Throughout his Harvard career, he was one of the most senior administrators for international programs and activities, working directly with the University president and others on international fundraising and program development. He was central to the establishment of the Real Colegio de Complutense at Harvard. In addition, he was a long-time board member and chair of LASPAU, the leading provider of academic and professional programs in support of higher education in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Chet Haskell began his higher education career at the University of Southern California, where he was associate director of its Washington Public Affairs Center and director of its undergraduate honors program in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Haskell has taught throughout his professional career at both the masters and undergraduate levels. He received the DPA (Doctor of Public Administration) and MPA degrees in public administration from the University of Southern California, an MA degree from the University of Virginia and the AB in Government (cum laude) from Harvard.