Ramapo College’s new provost is not content to rest on his laurels. Seated in his airy Birch Mansion office, Dr. Stefan Becker eagerly discussed his transition to Ramapo and his plans for the future of the school.
“This is exciting. You don’t want the job to be stale,” he said. “Every day is still a learning experience for me, and I’m thriving on that.”
The College announced the appointment of Dr. Becker last May. He began work on July 1, replacing longtime provost Dr. Beth Barnett, who announced her decision to resign last year.
Dr. Becker sees himself as an outsider with an adaptable approach.
“I came here understanding my vision for the institution will need to evolve. Some of my ideas will go straight down the drain,” he said, smiling. “But others might make sense, and we’ll pursue them.”
The new provost sees “big opportunities” at Ramapo. He described the College as “ripe for rethinking its curriculum … without deviating at all from our main mission to be a liberal arts college with small classes and an emphasis on offering a broad variety of topics.”
Dr. Becker cited students’ interests and needs as two primary concerns going forward. He also stressed the importance of a curriculum reflecting the current “economic environment.”
“This is not a contradiction,” Becker said, “A liberal arts education and the incorporation of these aspects … can happily coexist.”
Self-studies and external reviews of the College’s curriculum performed at five-year intervals represent another aspect of Dr. Becker’s plan going forward. Becker was adamant “everyone will be a part” of these future evaluations. He envisions a campus-wide conversation on the future of Ramapo.
In keeping with his vision of a curriculum reflecting the economic climate, Dr. Becker will be pursuing an expansion of classes “in the broad area of data science and data analysis.”
“The market out there is enormous,” he said.
Ramapo’s Anisfield School of Business is currently developing a business analytics minor, according to Dr. Becker. His plan would “go further”: Certificates and minors in the field will lead to “majors, graduate programs, possibly … a PhD.”
“I see Ramapo College as a hub for data science,” Becker said. “This is not at the expense of a liberal arts core. It’s going to be in support of a liberal arts core.”
Dr. Becker will also reassess the catalog of online courses offered by Ramapo.
“We cannot afford to ignore the courses we offer online…for any institution of higher education, not looking at the teaching opportunities offered by technology is risky.”
Dr. Becker’s history in education spans nearly two decades. A scientist specializing in human bioclimatology whose research has taken him across the globe, Dr. Becker joined Germany’s Justus Liebig University full-time in 1999.
He then moved to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 2004, where he slowly transitioned to the role of an administrator. He came to Ramapo from Herbert H. Lehman College, City University of New York, where he served as vice provost and member of the faculty.
Professor of literature Dr. Yvette Kisor chaired the search committee for a new provost following Dr. Barnett’s resignation.
“There were lots of opportunities for lots of different people to see who he was and what his vision for higher education was,” Dr. Kisor said, “The most consistent comment – what everyone seemed to be impressed by – was his incredible enthusiasm and innovation.”