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SUNY Plattsburgh Names Dr. James Liszka as Provost

Dr. James Liszka, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, has accepted the position of provost and vice president of academic affairs at SUNY Plattsburgh. His appointment begins July 1.

SUNY Plattsburgh’s provost is responsible for the management of all the college’s academic offerings and works closely with the president, the deans and other faculty leaders. Liszka will sit on the President's Cabinet as vice president of academic affairs.

“We look forward to having Jim join us as our new provost and vice president for academic affairs,” said SUNY Plattsburgh President John Ettling. “In his interviews, I was especially impressed with the fact that he is outcome driven and has a history of using data to help programs engage in improvement. That sort of continual development is very important to us as we keep evolving to meet the needs of our students and the community.”

UAA’s College of Arts and Sciences is the largest in the University of Alaska system. It serves 8,880 students compared to SUNY Plattsburgh’s 6,441 students. In his position at UAA, Liszka worked with a budget of about $37 million. As provost at SUNY Plattsburgh, he will work with a budget of around $35 million.

During his tenure as dean, the College of Arts and Sciences saw revenues increase by 31 percent, bringing its budget out of a deficit situation. In addition, the college saw an increase in freshmen retention rates of 4.8 percentage points.

As dean, Liszka has been a visiting professor at the China Youth University for Political Sciences in Beijing and has worked to establish cooperative relations with Chinese universities, creating a Confucius Institute at UAA.

He led a university-wide program evaluation process, initiated efforts to use e-portfolios on his campus and worked with the UAA’s College of Education on a grant to improve teacher training across the state. In addition, he worked to increase educational opportunities for Alaska Native students, strengthened the Alaska Native Studies program and instituted an Alaska Native arts emphasis in UAA’s fine arts program.

Prior to becoming dean, Liszka served in a variety of roles at UAA including the interim vice provost for research, interim director of graduate programs, chair of the department of philosophy and president of the Faculty Senate.

Among his many published works is “A General Introduction to the Semeiotic of Charles S. Pierce,” a text that was called “definitive” and the “single best work” on the subject by the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy.

Liszka has also won numerous awards including an Excellence in Teaching Award for pioneering service-learning and distance-learning courses at UAA and the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Research. A recipient of the Anchorage Mayor’s Award for Public Service, he is chair of the Alaska Humanities Forum Board and an executive board member of the Alaska Conservation Foundation.

Liszka earned his doctorate in philosophy at the New School for Social Research, a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of South Carolina and a bachelor’s in mathematics education from Indiana University.

Ettling praised the hard work of the provost search committee in bringing Liszka to campus.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the committee, especially Drs. Thomas Moran and Deborah Altamirano, who served as co-chairs.”

Liszka’s wife, Genie Babb, has also been appointed to a post at the college. Babb will serve as a full-time visiting associate professor in the English department. Currently chair and associate professor of English at UAA, her teaching and research specialties include the Victorian period as well as drama and performance studies. She has published articles on late-Victorian writers like H.G. Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as Alaskan themes like site-specific performance art – a piece that grew out of a collaboration with UAA’s Department of Theater and Dance.

Babb has held other leadership positions as UAA’s Faculty Senate president and co-director of women’s studies. She is also the vice president of the Victorian Interdisciplinary Association of the Western United States.

She earned her doctorate and a master’s degree in English literature from Brown University, doing some graduate work at Rice University. She also holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater arts from Baylor University.

She said that she deeply appreciates the emphasis on the liberal arts at SUNY Plattsburgh and looks forward to contributing to the life of the English department and the college.

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