Not long after starting his job as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Neil MacKinnon embarked upon a listening tour of Augusta University’s 10 colleges and schools — half-day meetings where he hoped to learn about their needs and goals.
“The provost is the chief academic officer, but also, really, the chief advocate for the academic enterprise,” he says. “If I’m going to be an advocate for the different colleges and schools and units, I need to understand them.”
Hailing from Nova Scotia, MacKinnon comes to Augusta from Ohio, where as dean of the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy at the University of Cincinnati he had tremendous success increasing diversity within his college. When he arrived, 5.7% of pharmacy students were Black; when he left seven and a half years later, the percentage had risen to 14.9 while the university’s percentage had remained unchanged.
As a MacKinnon from Nova Scotia (“New Scotland”), he knows his way around a kilt, and while he’s also the author of four books, he’s arguably not the most famous member of his family. His oldest daughter Breagh is a three-time U.S. national champion in Scottish Highland dancing.
I don’t want the first time people see me to be at a faculty assembly or graduation. I want people to say, “Yeah — I’ve met him before,” and the best way to do that is to meet people in their work environment.
As you move up to administration, you end up doing less and less teaching and then maybe get to the point where you do none at all. I really wanted to prevent that happening to me, so I reached out to all 10 deans about having teaching touchpoints in their colleges at least once a year.
I kept a research program as a dean to be a role model to my faculty, and President Keel has agreed to let me do that here. We’re one of four designated research universities in the whole state system, so for me it’s important to do that.
The nice thing about a kilt:
You can wear it at a very high-level event instead of a tux or dress it down the way you would shorts and a T-shirt.
Being a dance dad, I know my role: to haul stuff and take pictures.