Eric Watkins appointed Vice Provost for Distributed Learning

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Eric Watkins, professor of horticultural science in the University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), as the vice provost for distributed learning, effective September 12, 2022. In this new position, Dr. Watkins will provide leadership to drive the development of innovative, coordinated, and scaled systemwide distributed learning models, a commitment of the systemwide strategic plan, MPact 2025.

As vice provost for distributed learning, Dr. Watkins will serve as a member of the EVPP leadership team and will collaborate with faculty, instructional staff, and academic leaders across the University, and with appropriate governance committees, to advance planning around the University’s online education strategy. The work will build on existing efforts by chancellors and deans, the Office for Undergraduate Education, the Graduate School, the Academic Health Sciences, the College of Continuing and Professional Studies, Extension, and the Office for Public Engagement, among other key University units.

Dr. Watkins brings broad experience as a professor, academic administrator, and faculty leader who has championed teaching excellence, innovative instructional delivery, and expanded pathways for learners. Since joining the University faculty in 2004, he has held numerous leadership roles engaged with policies and practices related to teaching and learning. He currently serves on the University Senate Campus Curriculum Committee, has chaired the University Senate committees on information technology and student academic integrity, and has served as a member of the Faculty Consultative Committee. Dr. Watkins has received the John Tate Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising and is a former Office of Information Technology faculty fellow. As a teacher, he has a track record of advancing best practices in pedagogy and academic technology, integrating hybrid and online modalities with in-person instruction. He has held many academic leadership roles within CFANS and the horticultural science department, and has served the state in applied research, outreach, and teaching. As vice provost for distributed learning, Dr. Watkins will hold an academic administrative appointment concurrently with his tenured faculty appointment.

This appointment is the result of an internal University search process that drew a number of outstanding candidates. I want to thank the search committee, chaired by Dr. Amy Pittenger, and also extend my thanks to academic/governance leaders and a cross-section of content experts in academic technology, instructional design, and educational innovation for their helpful engagement in the search process.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Watkins to this important new leadership role.

Sincerely yours,

Rachel T.A. Croson
Executive Vice President and Provost

email sent to Twin Cities faculty and the systemwide administrative email list (AEL) on July 20, 2022