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Zhang:  Okay.  So whatís your first impression of the school? (Play Audio) 

Provost: Um, well of course itís absolutely beautiful, but what I got excited about when I interviewed, I interviewed then with the Director of Financial Aid, it was Bill Loving, with the Dean of Student Affairs who was Ron Pease, and with the College Chaplain.  With everyone this was the opportunity to do work as a team and the opportunity to have a lot of creative leeway in terms of initiatives, because what I found out was the person I would be replacing, had pretty much stayed in her office.  If somebody was really in bad shape that student would be referred to the office, a more of a medical model.  And the model that I had been trained in was much more of a well-being, preventive outreach program and that seemed like what the people I interviewed with were interested in.  So, I was excited.  And I was also impressed that the then president, Critchfield, wanted to meet me, even though at that point, the first year was a part-time position and I thought well, this is a place that cares about all levels of its operation if the president of the college is interested in interviewing a part-time person.  

 

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     Zhang: So when you first started as a part-time counselor, then a couple years later you become director of the program? (Play Audio)

      Provost: The next year, yeah.  I had gone from a full-time position at Valencia to this half-time position and at first I was ambivalent about taking it because I wanted to work full-time.  But, in the first year I realized that if you really do the kind of outreach that my model of mental health calls for, all of a sudden you get very, very busy.  And within six months it became clear there was a real need for more than one part-time person, because I was going into the sororities and talking about eating disorders, and I was talking about relationships and communication and assertiveness, and all of those things, and the response was incredible.  So I went to the dean and said, look this is the volume [of counseling] and I think we really need this to be a full-time job.  And there was no question in their minds.  And it was also a time when the attrition rate was fairly high and I argued that if you provide enough support services and help students who are confused and struggle with the things that are going on, kind of eliminate the static, that they might function better.  So, that was what happened.  And then within a few years of that I showed them data because I kept pretty good records and convinced them they needed a second counselor.

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      Zhang: So you basically just uncovered that you had this passion for teaching and learning.  Tell me about some of your different teaching approaches.  (Play Audio)

      Provost: Yeah, yeah.  Well, I am very student centered and facilitative, so thatís where I discovered that counseling and teaching are not too different, the way I do it, which is sort of to midwife the individual to discover their own abilities and strengths, empower them to feel like theyíre active learners and that they have the ability to master things.  So most of the teaching I do is very group-centered or student-centered with a lot of experiential and discussion and not a lot of lecture, Iím not really comfortable standing up and doing long lectures, it feels pretty wooden to me.  And if I sense that the energy is flagging in the group then Iíll stop and maybe get them in small groups and talk about a concept or idea, or something of that sort to kind of keep the energy level going.

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       Provost Discusses the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Play Audio)

      Provost: So, when I found the MBTI, I thought itís not specifically a career instrument but it helps people identify the way they process information, make decisions, and there was already some research data suggesting, work environments, that would be more compatible and what work strengths might go with different preferences.  And then that year in Gainesville was the first MBTI conference Myers funded the typology lab with the person who later ended up on my doctoral committee.  They brought together all the researchers who were using it.  And I went to that with some preliminary information from my work at Valencia and I got so excited, I thought this is something I really want to use more.  And then when I came to Rollins in the 70s we were concerned about attrition, Thad was really concerned by how high the attrition rate was.  I proposed to him that we administer the indicator to all entering freshmen and that Iíd track them for a four-year period to see if there were certain personality profiles that thrived here and others that had more difficulty and what some of those difficulties were and do qualitative research.  And I found it incredibly helpful and then of course it was really helpful in one-on-one counseling in understanding the way to connect.  Itís sort of like a cross-cultural thing.  If you understand somebodyís preferences, the way theyíre wired in terms of their own culture, then I can connect with them more quickly by knowing a little bit about how their minds work.

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Zhang: Ok, but just give me your impression of the student body over your thirty years of your counseling career.  (Play Audio)

     Provost: Oh, well, I talked a little about what it was like when I came.  I think now itís a much more diverse student body ethnically, in terms of class because weíre offering more financial aid, which I think is good, although I think thereís still an undercurrent of class-ism that is a continuing struggle.  And the student body now is more interested in volunteer work and service learning, I think, and a lot of that is because faculty has put a lot of effort into it, but I think itís also this generation.  And I think there are more academically motivated students now than previously.  But they still carry all the baggage that developmentally people in this age group have, about developing their identity, feeling comfortable with their sexuality, with women the pressures of having a certain body type, an image with men some of the pressures about what it means to be a male, as well as dealing with family issues and relationship issues, so itís a very interesting age to do counseling with.  I do miss that.  I felt very ambivalent when I went over to teaching full-time and leaving the counseling center because I loved doing therapy with this age group, because theyíre not so grooved into coping strategies yet that you canít help them find better, healthier ways of coping.  And thereís so much energy and vitality.  So, you know, I canít really generalize beyond that about the student body.  I think itís a complex student body with lots and lots of real struggles.

 

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