When Professor Timothy Clark was himself an undergraduate, universities were mere purveyors of a straightforward education. Institutions of higher education were more focussed on an academic education – with minimal emphasis placed upon the application of research in the real world or preparing students for their careers after university. As Prof Clark recalled, “we were not well-supported to think about our futures beyond the university”.
Building on his own experiences, he believes in enabling students to be future-ready; poised to transition from presenting case studies in the classroom to implementing solutions in the boardroom. After all, he feels that “the university is not about preparing people for four years, but productive lives of 30 or 40 years.”
These values are in line with the key mission of SMU “to produce broad-based, creative and entrepreneurial leaders for the knowledge-based economy”. Professor Clark joined SMU as Provost on 1 April 2019. He planned ahead, to hit the ground running and “get under the skin” of the University by immersing himself in campus life and meeting as many members of the community as he can.
“In the longer term I am looking forward to working with faculty, students, alumni and staff at the University to build strategies and plans to further enhance the University’s reputation for Education and Research that will underpin the achievement of Vision 2025,” said Prof Clark, who was formerly Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Social Sciences and Health) at Durham University, as well as the executive lead of Estates & Facilities and Corporate & Information Services.
One of his first responsibilities as provost will be to continue implementing recommendations from the year-long Blue Ribbon Commission on Undergraduate Programmes that was completed last year. Professor Clark will also be actively involved supporting the development of a strategy to implement the four “I”s and achieve Vision 2025, as well as leading a Blue Ribbon Commission for the Postgraduate Programme.
When asked how he hopes to impact SMU through his role, Professor Clark said, “I want to ensure it achieves its Vision 2025, enhances its global reputation for the quality of its education, research and student experience, graduates students who think deeply and broadly and who make a meaningful social contribution, and develop imaginative strategies so that it is strongly positioned to flourish in its third decade.”
Looking back on his time at Durham University, Professor Clark observed that it shares many key values with SMU, including a belief in the importance of developing holistic students. In fact, it was these strong values that attracted him to take on the role as Provost of SMU, as well as the great similarity between the University’s pedagogical approach and his own – to “create reflective practitioners with a critical appreciation of multiple perspectives of any issue or problem.”
“Over the last six months my interactions with (SMU) have confirmed that the warmth, commitment to personal care, questioning spirit, inter-relationship between education, scholarship and research, and importance of volunteering are as present at SMU as they are at Durham,” he described.
At the same time however, “Durham University can at times be quite traditional on educational matters and so is often a follower. SMU, in contrast, is a young, agile, market-focused and fast developing University that is open to innovation and new ideas,” he added.
In his personal time, Professor Clark is a committed cyclist who’s passionate about live theatre performances, and whose most significant memories of university life were his interaction with inspirational lecturers.
“People who would explain complex ideas clearly and convince you of their importance and then enthuse you to read further and deepen your understanding. I remember vigorous debates in lectures and seminars that pushed us to develop evidence-based arguments by being challenged by people who were experts in the issues at hand,” he recalled.
No doubt that’s the kind of University culture he wishes to build and be a part of, as he said: “Whilst the emphasis on particular theories and topics may have changed since I was a student, the excitement of developing new understanding that can arise from robust intellectual debate and dialogue has not.”