On July 1, 2021, Dr. Leamor Kahanov became the newly-appointed provost of Stockton University. To gain insight into Kahanov’s experience in administration and her plans for the university’s academic affairs, the Argo sat down with Kahanov on Friday, September 3, 2021 just in time for the new semester. The meeting covered various topics, such as Kahanov’s initial impression of the university and her approach to handling academic affairs in wake of the covid-19 pandemic.
When asked what initially drew her to Stockton University, Kahanov explained that she and Stockton seemed to have “found each other.” One major aspect of the university that snagged Kahanov’s interest is Stockton’s students-first vision, as well as the inclusive and accessible nature of the institution. She claims that the university’s “collaborative spirit aids in supporting students and serves as a foundation to do ever better for our students.” She described her admiration for regional-comprehensive institutions such as Stockton University that “have the opportunity to help students chart their futures, impact themselves and their families, and guide them,” which she believes is a powerful path for success. She particularly emphasized the importance of academic guidance on the administrative level in regards to first-generation students, stating that it can be impactful to their families and communities as a whole.
Kahanov, herself a first-generation student, claims to understand the obstacles that many of these students face: “I understand what it’s like to be concerned about financials in order to be in school, and having a family that doesn’t understand navigating and how the responsibilities you have to school impact your family life. If there is anything that we [administration] can do so that you can focus on your future, that is what I think the role [of provost] is for.”
Having served at SUNY Oneonta, a regional-comprehensive institution, Kahanov is familiar with working in an environment that is intended to “educate the public, regional community members, and students.”
However, she claims that Stockton University is unique in the way that the community collaborates in order to support and guide its students. According to Kahanov, the administration has an “obligation to give [students] the education that they want, and the extracurricular pieces of a coming-of-age environment.”
She specified the particular importance of public, state-affiliated institutions such as Stockton, in the sense that they “have a responsibility to help students navigate into the next phase of life” and that she does not take that duty lightly. When asked what she would like to see changed or improved within Stockton’s academic affairs, Kahanov stated that she would like to “lean into what we do very well, and make sure the students know what we do very well.”
As to what it is that the university does very well, Kahanov referenced Stockton’s curricular and co-curricular experiences. Kahanov’s goal is to flaunt what Stockton does well so students can take full advantage of the school’s unique environment, services, and activities.
Kahanov also wishes to augment the university’s efforts in regards to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). “We have a lot of DEI initiatives on campus which are innovative and thoughtful. As a diverse campus, I think we can do more,” Kahanov said. “There is a true dedication to DEI on [Stockton’s] campus, not just a readiness… there are individuals who are truly willing to move this forward so that more of the students in the community can participate in an equitable way on campus.”
According to Kahanov, the 2021-2022 school year will be for planning, not action, for academic affairs. Given her short time as the university’s provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Kahanov expressed that she will use the coming school year to assess the needs of the university and familiarize herself with the campus culture. This involves prioritizing “listening, finding everybody’s truth, what everyone is passionate about, and what their concerns are, so that I have a good understanding of how to work within those guardrails and to understand the culture.”
Another large part of Kahanov’s plans for the academic year concern talking to students and faculty, and laying out and solidifying administration’s plans for augmenting the institution’s strengths. In terms of managing academic affairs in light of the pandemic, Kahanov remains optimistic.
“We have learned a whole bunch of new tools… tools to teach, tools to learn, and tools to engage others. Covid was very difficult in a lot of different ways for many people, but at the same time, out of difficulty comes growth.”
She plans to “turn some of the challenges that we have seen over the past eighteen months into a very positive growth.”When asked where she saw the state of Stockton’s academic affairs in ten years, Kahanov emphasized the unpredictability of recent times, stating that her “crystal ball is broken” and much of that is attributed to COVID-related challenges.
However, she claims that the way in which the university values its students and the quality of students’ educational journey will remain unchanged into the future. According to Kahanov, that aspect of the university is the “essence of Stockton, and I do not want to see that changed.” She predicts that the university will remain “innovative, flexible, and responsive to our environment, so that we can give students the best educational opportunities and experiences they can have.”