Most people who have attended or worked in a university have heard the term "provost". But many people are not familiar with who the provost is or what they do.
Dr. Matthew Liao-Troth ('93, M.B.A.) has the distinction of being the first to hold that title at Hawai'i Pacific University when he was named to that position in May 2013.
"Schools here have vice presidents of academic affairs, but not provosts," said Liao-Troth. "Both positions ensure the academic integrity of the university, but the provost is also responsible for the campus experience, recruiting and admissions, advising and academic success, academic and student life, and career services."
A Fateful Decision
A native of Palo Alto, California, Liao-Troth originally planned to earn his M.B.A. with the idea of returning to his job with the Boy Scouts of America. He chose to attend San Diego State's business graduate program "because it had the size and variety to study my niche (nonprofit management) and a now-defunct ranking directory called the Gorman Report showed SDSU was ranked in the top five M.B.A. programs in California," said Liao-Troth.
His decision proved fateful: Liao-Troth never returned to his executive position with the Boy Scouts of America.
Instead, his studies at SDSU prompted him "to pursue a Ph.D. and teach nonprofit management." Liao-Troth became intrigued by the notion that managing volunteers was a more difficult task than managing paid employees because unlike employees, volunteers are not motivated by a salary.
"Pursue your dreams and the money will follow."
While at SDSU Liao-Troth said he got to know quite a few of the management faculty and served as a graduate assistant for professors Ken Marino, Sanford Ehrlich, Mark Butler, Mary Teagarden and Craig Dunn who also chaired Liao-Troth's master's thesis. He also taught a number of classes at SDSU prior to earning his Ph.D.
Upon earning his M.B.A. from SDSU, he attended the University of Arizona where he earned a master's degree and Ph.D. in management and policy, after which he joined the faculty of DePaul University in Chicago. After a two-year stint at Washington University in St. Louis, he moved on to Western Washington University where he became a full professor, management department chair and president of the faculty senate. He continued to move up the academic ladder when he left Western Washington to become dean of the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business at Georgia College & State University and, eventually, the interim provost and vice president of academic affairs of GCSU.
While Liao-Troth is a trailblazer as Hawai'i' Pacific University's first university provost, he still remembers the lessons he took with him from SDSU. "I have modeled some of my teaching on the faculty who really connected with me in the classroom," he said. "For example, Professor Beatty taught a class that inspired me to become a super user of SPSS statics software. Later on, the software maker used me as a spokesperson on how to use SPSS in undergraduate and graduate management courses."
Liao-Troth owes his success to doing what he loves to do and he shares some advice with today's SDSU's students: "Pursue your dreams and the money will follow," he says. "I have never taken a job for the money, always for the passion, and things have worked out well."