Get to know ACC’s new provost: Q&A with Dr. Charles Cook

Dr. Charles Cook will join ACC in August.

Dr. Charles Cook becomes ACC’s new provost/executive vice president for academic affairs in August. As the college’s chief academic officer, he will guide and oversee all programs relating to instruction and student services. Read about some of his goals and priorities.

What will be your priorities when you start in August?

Obviously, I will follow the lead of Dr. Rhodes and assist him in executing his agenda. Beyond that, I want to visit all the campuses, tour all of the instructional and student service programs, and meet as many faculty and staff as possible. I’m a strong proponent of teamwork, so my first priority is to meet and establish rapport with the team players!

What would you like to accomplish in a year from now?

In a year from now, I’d like to be thoroughly engaged with faculty and staff in cutting-edge grant projects through which we create and provide instructional and student service programs and materials that assist our students in learning, our faculty in teaching, and our staff in supporting student progress.

I’d like to be engaged with our K-12 and university partners to ensure a smooth pipeline through which students both come to us and leave us well-prepared for their next steps.

Finally, I’d like to be engaged with our business and community partners to ensure ACC is contributing to a high-quality workforce and the overall social and economic success of our city and state.

What attracted you to the provost position at ACC?

That’s an easy one – the college leadership, the faculty and staff, the town, and the position itself!

I worked in Austin previously – from 1994 to 1999 at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board – and I love the interaction between city and state leaders in all fields there, and the energy and creativity they promote!

I’m a big fan of urban studies expert Richard Florida’s work on the “creative class,” and I believe that Austin and ACC exemplify his theory that people become the key economic growth asset for cities and regions by promoting the “3 Ts” of economic development: technology, talent, and tolerance.

How are today’s college students different from when you entered higher education?

Many of today’s students are the same as when I entered higher education – eager, motivated, and well-positioned for success. However, the demographics of our state and nation are rapidly changing. We have an ever-increasing number of students who are bright, but less prepared. Often they’re the first in their family to attend higher education, and arrive without the knowledge and support they need.

More than ever, for those students – and their families – attaining a post-secondary credential will mean the difference between poverty and a better quality of life. We need to ensure that all students not only have access to higher education, but that they have every opportunity for success as well!

Student success is central to ACC’s mission. What are three things you think colleges must do to ensure student success?


Our real challenges lie not in getting students “in” the door, but in ensuring that they stay, persist, and complete their certificates, degrees, and other academic goals.

I think the three things we must do as a college are to, one, be proactive in terms of outreach, advising, and support; two, be engaging to ensure that instruction and services are relevant and fulfill students’ needs; and three, be excellent in terms of our faculty and staff professional competencies.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Witnessing the processes and products of higher education is a never-ending source of joy. There are so many talented teachers, counselors, librarians, and administrators at work in our colleges, and to hear their ideas, observe their expertise, and learn from them about how to improve things is so fulfilling. And even more rewarding is seeing the students grow and develop into ever more confident and capable individuals than when they arrived. Being even a small contributor to such results is an awesome feeling.

How do you stay energized and motivated?

To stay energized, I love to learn, so I read voraciously – not only education, but history, and literature. I love to garden and landscape – it provides me peace and serenity. I love movies, sports, and travel. I like to exercise, but admit that “procrastination” with it often deters me – it’s my perennial New Year’s resolution.

To stay motivated, I interact with faculty, staff, and students. They amaze me with the hardships they overcome and the accomplishments they achieve. They inspire me to work harder to help them.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

I’ve been very fortunate over the years, receiving outstanding advice from family, friends, teachers, and bosses. My favorite professor at UT-Austin urged me to “discover and follow my passion,” and that has ensured that work is a joy and not a burden.

On a more mundane level, one of my first bosses advised me, “Don’t procrastinate!” I’ve thanked her ever since. Tasks deferred, especially less favorite ones, become more onerous with time. It pays dividends to focus, prioritize, and take care of business in a timely manner so that molehills don’t wind up as mountains to climb!

Where do you see higher education in 20 years?

The boundaries for higher education will keep expanding – more knowledge, more students, and more technologies by which we may provide better instruction and services.

I think we’ll continue to see more communication across sectors and nations to define and promote student learning that is credentialed, transferable, and validated. There are still many places in the world where people, especially women, do not have the means to gain and develop their knowledge and skills. I think higher education must work with entities such as the Gates Foundation and other philanthropic groups to provide higher education to all so that we can tackle persistent world problems of poverty and disease.

View ACC selects Dr. Charles Cook as new provost for more information about Dr. Cook.


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