Employee Spotlight: Timothy Kurzweg, Advocate for Undergraduate Education
Timothy Kurzweg, PhD, may be a vice provost now, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots. So when he’s looking for a quiet place on campus, he knows he can always dip into a classroom in the Electrical and Computer Engineering wing of the Bossone Research Center, where, until he shifted into an administrative role toward the end of the fall term, he was a professor and assistant department head for undergraduate affairs.
Now, with his role expanding to vice provost of undergraduate education for all of Drexel University, Kurzweg is ready to move his focus beyond the College of Engineering and begin searching for new approaches to improve every Drexel student’s educational experience.
The job, as he sees it, involves two main functions: overseeing policies and operations to keep students moving in the right direction, and coming up with the strategies and institutional changes that can unite the University to better deliver what students need to succeed. He’ll also oversee Drexel’s ROTC and the Office of the Provost’s relationships with the University Registrar and Student Life in addition to representing the office on student and parent committees. First and foremost, he wants to break down the walls he sees between co-op and the classroom, so the two pillars of a Drexel education are more closely entwined.
“Of course co-op is one of our biggest highlights; it’s one of our biggest values to our students,” Kurzweg said. “But I’ve always seen a disconnect in that our students are here for six months and then they go away for six months, then they’re here for six months, and we don’t have this interconnection between the two biggest events they have here at Drexel.”
Kurzweg plans to work closely with Ian Sladen, the new vice president of cooperative education and career development in the Steinbright Career Development Center, to get faculty more involved with students before and after co-op. His hope is that students can more directly apply what they learn on the academic side to their co-ops, then take what they learn on co-op and apply it back to their academics, creating a cycle that could have big benefits.
“Academics gets steeped in traditions, and a lot of that is good, but that can maybe stop you or hold you back from trying some new things, and that’s something I really want to work on, integrating those two experiences,” Kurzweg said.
It’s a process he started working on in the year-plus he spent in the Provost Fellows Program, during which he shadowed his predecessor, John DiNardo, PhD. The program, which Kurzweg referred to as his own personal co-op, gave him hands-on training that has set him up for success. He joined Drexel as a professor in 2002 and got his first taste of administration when he took a leadership role in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and now he’s ready for more.
“To be honest, I took a chance,” Kurzweg said of his initial move toward the administrative side of higher education. “I was an associate professor at that time, I had just gotten tenure and I took the opportunity, as I like to do, to challenge myself, and I jumped two feet in. It was an opportunity to help students in another way. I love teaching, I’ve been very fortunate to be able to connect with students. But now, instead of a single class, I was able to support all the undergraduates in Electrical and Computer Engineering. And now I can extend that help to all the undergraduates at Drexel.”
Speaking in mid-December, as one group of students after the next burst out of the Main Building Auditorium after finishing final exams, Kurzweg still had a bit of teaching to wrap up. He had to submit grades in a few days for the full slate of engineering classes he taught in the fall term, though he was anticipating a change of pace with a teaching release set to take effect for the winter term. With the space to devote all his time to his role as vice provost, he’s looking forward to his next chapter at Drexel.
“The excitement is really figuring out how everything works at this university and being able to figure out where I can make my impact,” Kurzweg said. “And it does take a little bit of time. I’ve been in this job 30-some days right now, and I feel like I knew a lot before I got here, but now I really know a lot — and there’s still a lot to learn.”This story was published in the winter 2018 issue of Drexel Quarterly.