David Manderscheid took over as provost and senior vice chancellor on July 1 and has spent the past few weeks getting to know campus and finding his way around Knoxville.
He sat down last week to share a little about himself and his initial impressions of Big Orange country.
Manderscheid grew up in East Lansing, Michigan. His father was a professor at Michigan State University and his mother was a university librarian. Not surprisingly, Manderscheid chose Michigan State for his undergraduate studies in math. He then completed his doctorate in math at Yale University.
Before coming to UT, he was executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and vice provost for arts and sciences at the Ohio State University. He’s also served as a dean at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and on the faculty at the University of Iowa, and he’s held appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California; and the University of Paris.
Manderscheid and his wife, Susan Lawrence, a history professor, have moved into a midcentury modern ranch house on the Tennessee River in Bearden with their two cats, Henry and Roxie.
What are your initial impressions of Rocky Top?
“My wife and I have found it very welcoming. We love it here. There’s so much to get excited about at this university. We’re really looking forward to settling in here.”
As a newcomer, what do you see as UT’s greatest strengths? Where is our greatest potential for growth?
“The best thing about UT is its people. I can see that we have very strong faculty, staff, and students who are extremely dedicated to this university.
“As for growth . . . I think we can do even better on our student retention rate and our graduation rate. I also think our cluster hire initiative will help us move research forward and build upon our strengths.”
How do you plan to get to know faculty, staff, and students?
“Right now, I’m meeting with all of the deans and senior administrators. When more faculty and students are back in August, I’ll expand my outreach. I want to find unique ways to meet with different groups and get together for casual conversation. The annual Academic Leadership Retreat (for deans, directors, and department heads) will be a great opportunity to talk about our priorities.”
With all UT has been through recently, how do we move forward with confidence?
“UT has been here for almost 225 years and has weathered many storms.
“Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis is a strong leader who understands the state and this institution. The state of Tennessee is in a great place right now—and this university is too. That’s why I wanted to come to UT.”
How did you end up in academia?
“I’ve always been good at math, and some of my college professors encouraged me to go to grad school. I became a math professor and then I became an administrator. That points to the great influence faculty can have on students.”
If you didn’t do this work, what would you do?
“I’ve always wanted to be a professional cyclist, but I’m too old for that now. I do bicycle a lot for fun, though. I’m just getting to know the roads and greenways.”
What’s the last book you’ve read?
“The book I’m currently reading is The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, a Canadian psychologist and Harvard University professor. This book maintains that violence has declined through history and discusses why—even though everything we hear on the media and social media makes us think violence is increasing.”
If math was your favorite subject in school, what was your least favorite?
“Well, this goes back to Catholic school, but . . . handwriting. I wasn’t very good at it.”
Who’s your role model?
“My father. He was a professor of agricultural economics at Michigan State and was department chair. He was president of the faculty senate. He was always a great mentor to students. As a dad, he was always caring. He taught us to treat everyone equally.”
What’s the most interesting spot you’ve visited, and a place you still want to go?
“The place I’m looking forward to visiting is Madrid, Spain. That’s where we’re going next summer.”
Tell us a few things most people don’t know about you.
“I love to cook and I love to eat. I hate cucumbers and watermelon, but I love tomatoes. And doughnuts. That’s why I have to work out so much.
“I used to have long hair—down to my shoulders—and a beard.
“I love Twitter.
“I like to go fast, whether in a car or on a bike. Of course, I never exceed the speed limit.”