Christopher Storn PhD, who has worked for Adelphi since 2007, was appointed the new provost and effective vice president effective July 1, 2021.
By Jamie Gesell
Ted the new provost and executive vice president at Adelphi University after an extensive search process that involved more than 400 members of the Adelphi community. He was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees and began the position July 1, 2021. He has worked at Adelphi since 2007 as an assistant professor of mathematics, associate professor, department chair, academic administrator and associate provost. As he began his new journey, he gave The Delphian an interview to discuss what motivates him, his plans for his role and goals for the University.
Storm said his motivation to be provost stems from his curiosity of how policies and decisions are made at Adelphi. “Ever since becoming a faculty member and associate provost here, I have always wanted to learn more about how Adelphi can become a better institution,” he said.
He added that after working in the provost office as an associate for five years, he believes he developed the skills necessary to help Adelphi move forward and further improve its academic reputation.
The ability to build structures is one of the aspects of the role that he finds exciting. He is particularly interested in building an undergraduate research and creative works office.
“The goal of the office is to provide a central place to coordinate policies around undergraduate research and to work with academic programs to develop models that best suit their disciplines,” Storm said. “It's a catalyst to increase the number and richness of opportunities at Adelphi. Long term it will help with writing grants to increase opportunities and ideally have some funding vehicles for things like summer fellowships.”
He added that the office will further provide increased opportunities for experiential learning.
“One of the things that we want to do as a university is to really teach our students to critically think and to be civically engaged,” said Storm. However, one of the challenges he sees is gathering collective action from the community. Raising awareness to motivate people to take on problems will be challenging, but also an opportunity for him. He believes all of his goals will require the total attention from the Adelphi community and it will take a lot of effort. However, Storm has confidence he will overcome this challenge to get everyone involved in the institutional and community agenda.
The ongoing pandemic adds its own challenges to the role. “I realize that it’s hard on everyone right now, but we have a strong responsibility to keep the community safe,” Storm said. “Traditionally, the provost has been focused on the quality and outcomes of education. But with the pandemic, it brings on a whole new set of issues that the provost will have to tackle.”
What’s important, according to Storm, is to be able to talk to people and adjust and adapt quickly as things change. To further help Adelphi with the pandemic, he has set up an agenda with goals he plans to immediately fulfill. Those include putting together a group of Adelphi faculty members who specialize in trauma and creating a trauma-informed pedagogy forum series where faculty can answer questions and teach students strategies to tackle issues brought on by the pandemic.
Ultimately, Storm said he wants to make an impact not just on the pandemic, but on the core educational mission of Adelphi. His plans for undergraduate research will intensify the educational experience and enrich the lives of students. He said he already believes Adelphi’s handle on internships, guest speakers and support will be helpful in his impact on the school.
“I think that would be really important and sustain the institution for many years,” he said.
While he was named provost, students and alumni from the Black@AU Instagram group expressed their wishes that his opponent, Marsha Tyson Darling, received that position. Darling was recently appointed to the position of special assistant to the president for strategic initiatives, effective Sept. 1.
When asked about the students’ social media response, Storm said he respected where the group was coming from, adding he thought they raised some important points that affect the community and believes “that it’s our responsibility to be responsive.” He said he plans to bring together Adelphi’s diverse community.
“We need to be deliberate and intentional at making safe spaces where people can come together without fear of retaliation,” he said.
In addition, Storm said he will oversee a disciplined review of resource allocations, retention, grading and course evaluations for all students. If there is a certain demographic struggling in this review, Storm will take action to make changes and help those students succeed.
“Deep down, my core principles of being a provost are that they are clear and direct, give people the responses, be they positive or negative, that help them move forward, and understand that they come from a place of integrity,” he said.
Storm said that his experience as a mathematician helped lead to his role as provost as it has enhanced his critical thinking skills, especially those concerning putting things together.
“One of the things that I study are something called graphs; think of them like phone networks where you have connections,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in how things fit together and what structures there are. I think there’s a lot of carryover in some of that studies and mindset needed for my role as provost.”
Storm said when he learned he had been named provost, he felt a mix of emotions. “I was excited but at the same time daunted and humbled by the responsibility and trust of the community,” he said.
When asked what attributes students with the goal of one day considering the position of a university provost would need, Storm recommended they have a sense of humor, be curious and knowledgeable about their institution and students’ perspectives and practice patience.