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Home / Naropa Magazine Fall 2011 / University Snapshots

University Snapshots

carol a. blackshire-belay, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs

How did studying in Munich influence your view of education?

carol a. blackshire-belay, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs I had the opportunity to learn about the global world in which we live and the mosaic of many different cultures, peoples, and the richness of influences that effect all of our lives. I also had the amazing opportunity to learn and gain fluency in another language different from my mother tongue. German  has become my second language; I speak German with near-native fluency. Studying in Munich, Germany gave me a deeper perspective of how educational institutions function and operate, not only abroad in Western Europe, but in the U.S. as well.

What attracted you to Naropa University?

I was first attracted to Naropa out of sheer interest of its unique mission, which truly appeals to me, and because it is a liberal arts institution dedicated to advancing contemplative education. Also, the opportunity to work with a distinguished group of faculty really impressed me. All of these reasons attracted me to Naropa, which also coincide with many of my personal interests and practices in my daily life. I am a person who seeks new challenges and opportunities in my life and career, and I simply felt this was a chance of a lifetime for me to become part of an amazing University where I could make a difference. It is very exciting for me to be a part of Naropa at this time in its history.

Are you teaching classes at Naropa this year?

No, for the simple reason that whatever I decide to do, I want to give it my all. I have found in the past that trying to teach a course, while at the same time providing administrative leadership is really tough. The Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs is a demanding role, a full-time role. I have found that when I teach, for me personally it is best done in the summer when the pace is slower. Nevertheless, I attempt to be very visible in my role on all three campuses, and to visit as many courses that I can over the course of a semester. Attending classes, perhaps giving a lecture, or maybe even conducting one of the classes during the semester is something that truly excites me and keeps me energized about the amazing work that is performed by our faculty contributing to the success of our students. Naropa's Interdisciplinary Studies program allows students to largely design their own degree program by combining various academic interests.

Do you anticipate that type of educational program becoming more common?

The major in Interdisciplinary Studies at Naropa is recognized as a unique program of study, which is offered at many institutions across the US. At Naropa, the program is designed to help a student gain broad intellectual understandings of the interrelationships of learning among several areas of study. The Interdisciplinary Studies major prepares the student to apply this learning in his or her community, profession, and personal activities and is suitable preparation for graduate work in a number of programs. Under the guidance of the professors in the program, Interdisciplinary Studies students have the ability to demonstrate the major concepts, theories, and works within one of these selected areas: Natural Sciences & Environmental Issues; Social Sciences; Humanities and the Arts; or Business & Economics. Students also develop both personally and socially, gaining an awareness of self, of cultural diversity and the world around them, and the development of a lifelong plan of learning.

How do you anticipate utilizing your expertise in restructuring academic programs and renovating campuses in your new position at Naropa?

There is the reorganization plan that Dr. [Stuart] Sigman designed with faculty input, and it was approved by our faculty senate, Cauldron. I am implementing what was agreed upon, so my background and expertise in having done this before is essential. It's not about if we are going to do it or what we are going to do, it's about knowing what was agreed upon and following through with it, making sure that we stay within the timeline that was set up—because it's also tied to the reaccreditation of the institution by the Higher Learning Commission.

In your opinion, how can Naropa become more efficient in its organizational structure while continuing to offer students the unique, transformative educational experience they have come to expect from Naropa?

Again, a lot of work and energy went into the restructuring and the entire university was restructured in response to what is needed to ensure the quality education that Naropa University is known for offering its students and also for producing well rounded individuals. Having faculty who love what they do, who have come to Naropa to uplift the world through educating our students and through contemplative education—all of these things have to be maintained. The restructuring will strengthen and support that. I am looking forward to many months and years to come in making a contribution to Naropa University.