Carolinda Douglass describes herself as a planner “by nature and by training.”
It’s a skill that will come in mighty handy in the months and years to come.
A veteran NIU administrator with a diverse background and special strengths in assessment, Douglass has been tapped to become the university’s new vice provost for academic planning and development.
The post comes with a host of weighty responsibilities. They include ensuring that the university’s academic standards are met, plotting the course for new programs and research centers and serving as the NIU liaison to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
“I’m a planner, and it’s got planning right in the title,” Douglass laughs when asked why she is a good fit for the job.
“Taking time to see the big picture – to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are headed – has always been a strength of mine,” she adds. “I’m able to be more spontaneous when things are well planned. Being prepared helps me take advantage of opportunities in the moment.”
The appointment of Douglass, who currently serves as associate vice provost for academic outcomes assessment, will be effective May 1. She will replace Virginia Cassidy, who is retiring at the end of May after 13 years in the position.
“Virginia Cassidy has provided phenomenal leadership, guiding our reaccreditation process and advancing academic program planning, development and review. She has been a tremendous asset to NIU,” NIU Provost Raymond Alden says.
“At the same time, we’re fortunate that Carolinda Douglass can step into the post,” Alden adds. “She brings experience, expertise and top credentials.”
Alden notes that Douglass has excelled in her current job, ensuring rigorous and defensible assessment processes for academic programs. She also has worked closely with shared governance, has chaired the Student Success Task Force for strategic planning and has been actively involved in the reaccreditation process.
“She will be able to hit the ground running,” Alden says.
Douglass holds a bachelor’s degree in human development, three master’s degrees (gerontology, policy analysis and public administration) and a Ph.D. in policy analysis from the Pardee RAND Graduate School. All of those degrees are interdisciplinary, enabling her to develop a broad perspective on higher education.
Douglass began her career at NIU in 1996 as an assistant professor in what is now the School of Nursing and Health Studies. She took a post as an assessment coordinator in 2005, spent five years as director of Assessment Services and was promoted last summer to associate vice provost.
Along the way, Douglass built a reputation as a leading advocate for increased transparency in assessment, best practices and greater inclusion of students in the assessment process.
“In my job now, it has been inspirational to see so many wonderful academic programs and outstanding student learning going on across the university,” Douglass says. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to be part of the development, promotion and maintenance of these high quality programs.”
Douglass says she will continue to build on a culture of assessment and evidenced-based decision making.
Among her immediate priorities will be coordinating the university’s “Self Study.”
The study, which is already well under way, must demonstrate that NIU meets accreditation criteria established by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The HLC is expected to conduct a site visit in 2014.
Playing a part in making progress toward Vision 2020 Initiative benchmarks also is high on the to-do list for Douglass.
She says she intends to monitor the progress and emulate the success of NIU’s new interdisciplinary centers, including the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy, Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development and Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy.
“We’re headed into a period when many new opportunities will present themselves,” Douglass says. “We have to take advantage of interdisciplinary, online and international programs. It should be a very exciting time.”