Lesleigh Cushing to Serve as New Provost and Dean of the Faculty

Former Provost and Dean of the Faculty Tracey E. Hucks has been on sabbatical for the duration of the 2021-22 academic year, and Professor of Jewish Studies and Religion and Senior Advisor to the President for Arts and Innovation Initiatives Lesleigh Cushing has since been appointed to take on the position. Cushing will officially take over the provost position as of July 1, 2022. She has been a member of Colgate’s faculty since 2002 and was awarded the Colgate Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award in 2015. Cushing expressed her excitement for the opportunity to take on this role and she is particularly looking forward to the collaborative work that will come with the position.

“I have held a number of leadership positions at Colgate– director of Jewish studies, university professor for Core 151, most recently, associate dean of the faculty for faculty recruitment and development – that gave me a deep appreciation of how complex and interesting universities are,” Cushing said. “In this last role in particular, I worked with a team of great people in the provost/dean’s office to foster and promote an exceptional liberal arts education, to support and strengthen academic programs, and to recruit and retain faculty, and I found that work really stimulating.  I really like working in a team of people to make Colgate a better place.”

Cushing further elaborated on her enthusiasm for collaborative problem-solving and the other administrative skills she has developed in preparation for her new role.

“I love puzzles and I love problem-solving, and a role like provost/dean of the faculty is really about problem-solving. You get to work with amazing people all across the University, learn about what makes them excited about being here and what challenges they encounter in their work, and then try to figure out how to diminish those challenges,” Cushing said.

Despite Cushing’s qualifications, there remains relative confusion amongst faculty and students regarding Hucks’ departure. While on sabbatical, Hucks has maintained her involvement within the Colgate community as chief diversity officer and will continue to help with fundraising activities related to academic initiatives under The Third-Century Plan.

Several administrators declined to comment on the circumstances of Hucks’ departure from campus, such as Senior Administrative Assistant to the Office of the Provost and Dean of Faculty Tammy Ertley and Associate Dean of the Faculty for Curricular and Academic Affairs; Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Douglas Johnson. Johnson instead spoke about his confidence in Cushing’s ability to take on the position.

“The complexities of Colgate’s [Provost and Dean of the Faculty] (PDoF) role are rich, and there are many constituents the PDoF serves in addition to the faculty,” Johnson said. “Professor Cushing is the right choice for us right now. Lesleigh is a strategic thinker, helps facilitate consensus building when it is appropriate, makes difficult decisions based on what is in the institution’s best interest, is fiscally responsible, and works amazingly well with all constituencies. Lesleigh not only has the skills to be provost at Colgate, but she has already demonstrated excellence in behavioral competencies across a number of arenas that, for everyone else on campus, would be incredibly steep learning curves and/or promissory notes.”

Johnson went on to note a myriad of community-centered and administrative arenas in which he has already seen Cushing excel.

“Fundraising, board relations,  resource allocation, personnel matters, strategic planning, faculty development, recruitment, and support, [as well as] diversity, equity, inclusion, and access work that is both visible and hidden,” Johnson said. “I personally have seen her be successful in all of them – not just with ‘visions,’ ‘hopes,’ ‘plans,’ or ‘promises,’ but with documented experiences and demonstrable outcomes.”

Despite the significance of the role, many students were unaware of the new appointment. Junior Chase Cleary was surprised to hear of the change but does not feel particularly strongly about it either way, which highlights the student body’s distance from the matter.

“I hadn’t heard that Provost Hucks was leaving. I didn’t know much else about her besides that she is a Colgate alum, which I thought was nice for someone in the administration,” Cleary said. “I trust, though, that the administration has made the right choice with Lesleigh Cushing as it seems like she has a lot of experience at Colgate.”

Cushing is ready to make a difference during her time as dean of the faculty and provost and shared her goals for the future of Colgate. She hopes to continue to create a more inclusive climate on campus and ensure that everyone knows that they belong here.

“In doing faculty recruitment, development, and retention, I worked with others to foster a culture in which faculty were invited to bring their whole selves to Colgate, to participate fully in the university’s many and varied intellectual and social communities, and to engage meaningfully in the work of shaping the institution for the better,” Cushing said. “So I see it as a critical part of my work as provost fostering a stronger sense of community and to encourage the thriving of many communities across the faculty and staff of the PDoF division.”

Cushing also explained how she is aware of both the recent and pre-existing hardships students, faculty and staff alike have faced, but that she is also hopeful in terms of  what the Colgate community has to offer and the exciting future the campus has in store.

“It has been a hard few years for everyone and there is a pervasive sense of both anxiety about the state of the world and exhaustion induced by the upheaval of the pandemic,” Cushing said. “At the same time, Colgate is in an amazing place: we are entering our third-century, launching a huge campaign, and pushing ourselves to innovate and excel in a range of really exciting ways. So I see myself as working with people to find sane ways to balance our shared institutional commitments with our individual professional passions and personal priorities.”

Cushing is excited about taking on this role, and wanted to let the student body know that even though she may not be in the classroom as often, she hopes to continue to connect with them and get to know what is on their minds in the same way she was able to when she was their professor.