by Gabriella DePinho, Editor-in-Chief
Early in the fall semester, it was announced that Bill Clyde would step down from his role as provost and vice president of academic affairs. The search that began in October officially came to a close on April 1 when President Brennan O’Donnell announced that Steven Schreiner would be filling the role as of July 6.
Steven Schreiner, who is both a Ph.D. and a P.E., comes to Manhattan College from The College of New Jersey where he has served as the dean of the school of engineering since 2008. At TCNJ, Schreiner led the development of several new academic programs in both STEM and the humanities, as well as the development of new facilities.
When searching for a new provost, O’Donnell was not only looking for someone with the right experience in program development, but for someone who understood Manhattan College’s mission.
“I think the most important thing for me, really, was ‘does he get who we are’,” O’Donnell said. “The provost is such an important position that it’s got to be somebody who understands what kind of an institution we are, what our mission is, what our strengths are academically, and what our ambitions are in terms of what else we want to do in order to build the institution.”
Schreiner was one of three candidates that came to the college’s campus for final round interviews, which included meetings with faculty, students and a number of administrators, as well as a tour. Schreiner was a late addition to the search committee’s final round interviewees. The other two candidates had been announced alongside a third candidate, who removed herself from consideration after accepting another job at another higher education institution.
“I told the search committee this that I was very proud that all of the finalists who came to campus, all of them, talked to me about how the more they met people at Manhattan College, the more excited they were to potentially be offered the job,” O’Donnell said.
Schreiner’s interview took place on March 5 and 6, just days before Manhattan College moved to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, something the president is grateful for.
“By the time that we really realized that we were going to have to make the shift to virtual and remote instruction, we had already determined that we wanted to offer the job to Steve Schreiner,” O’Donnell said. “I was frankly delighted with his courage in doing this, I mean, it’s a tricky time. I was a little bit concerned that there would be an element of saying, ‘well the cards are all up in the air, this not a great time to make a major sort of, you know, decision and, and move’. But, he really just navigated through that very, very well, very strongly. And he wanted to come here and we wanted him here.”
While the president is confident in his decision to offer the job to Schreiner, he notes that Clyde has done an excellent job in the role.
“Bill Clyde was always all about students and the students and the faculty and the mission,” O’Donnell said. “That core of sort of always asking the question ‘what kind of support does the faculty need in order to serve the students in light of the mission?’ That was his constant concern. And I think that guided pretty much everything that he did while he was here.”
Though Schreiner is different from Clyde in background, O’Donnell believes they are similar in terms of commitment to the college’s mission.
“I think when all is said and done, he really shares that kind of core commitment to the sense that we have a very strong mission,” O’Donnell said. “And we need to innovate, and we need to change and we need to adapt, and he has experience in doing that.”
Schreiner will be filling the role after Clyde’s 10 years in the role. Clyde has overseen program and department developments on campus, from the most recent creation of the Digital Arts and Humanities (DAsH) minor to the first committee he created – the retention committee – which led to the development of a number of resources, such as the Center for Academic Success and the Multicultural Center.
“I’d say the biggest overarching thing I tried to foster is a culture of collaboration and an entrepreneurial mindset,” Clyde said. “I think the president’s been doing this too. The administration has been working through this [and] having the faculty, the students and everybody in the community think that they can bring great ideas forward and have them fully vetted to see how they’re aligned with our mission and strategic plan. And wherever possible, we’re going to support great things moving forward.”
Clyde will not be leaving Manhattan College in July but he will be assuming a faculty role. While serving as provost, Clyde taught Intro to Economics for the Arches program several times. However, this came as a challenge, because his role as faculty member and provost would occasionally conflict with each other, as he had important tasks in both roles that needed to be attended to at the same time.
One such instance was the day of November 15, 2018, where a major snowstorm ended up shutting down New York City. He was teaching his class but watching the snow continue to fall outside and while trying to teach his course, he was distracted with whether or not he should call for class cancellation for the rest of the day. When class got out, Clyde called the snow day, a decision, he says, he would have made earlier if he could have.
“That’s one of those things where, when you’re provost, you’re the only one that can do that and you’re responsible to do those things,” Clyde said.
While Clyde will miss the high-energy and data analysis aspects of being provost, he is looking forward to returning to full-time teaching, as well as picking up some research, dedicating time to two boards he is on and other projects he has not been able to get to in recent years.
“I’m very much looking forward to redirecting my energy to those things and making a difference in those places where I can,” Clyde said. “I like teaching and one of the challenges of teaching is that when you’re teaching, you really need to make that your focus.”
Clyde was supportive of O’Donnell’s decision to select Schreiner to fill in the role.
“I think he’s a great candidate,” Clyde said of Schreiner. “I was wholly, wholly supportive of the president making the decision to hire him. I am really excited about him coming in.”