A New Dawn for Westminster
Dr. Lisa Gentile aims to empower faculty and students as the college’s first female provost
by Arikka Von (MSC ’15)
Westminster’s new provost starts many of her days at sunrise with people she calls crazy and fun. No, she’s not talking about our professors—as fun as they are. Dr. Lisa Gentile plunges into frigid lake waters at dawn for brisk open-water workouts. It’s one of the things she was excited about in coming to Utah.
Lisa was a Division I collegiate swimmer. After years of chasing the black line on the bottom of the pool, she cursed the idea of swimming indoors. Then a close-knit community of open-water swimmers drew Lisa in.
“Community is really important to me, so it’s a fantastic way to start the day.”
The remainder of Lisa’s days are a bit warmer. She spends them with the other community that she has been connected with and committed to since she moved to Utah in 2013, when she became Westminster’s dean of the School of Arts and Sciences: the Westminster faculty.
Her proudest dean moment? There are many, and they all happened while working on team projects.
“It wasn’t always a perfect process. We had missteps, but at the end of last year, we accomplished an awful lot together, both within Arts and Sciences and across campus.”
Getting it done with faculty across campus and empowering the community to accomplish student-centered goals are what make Lisa so excited about expanding her role from dean to provost. As provost, she is the college’s top academic officer, responsible for guiding and supporting all the academic components of the college.
“I don’t want to work as a provost in isolation. I will be working together with the deans as an academic affairs team, with faculty and staff across campus, and with the executive team.”
Lisa is drawing upon Westminster’s new strategic plan to guide her leadership as provost. With innovation happening across campus and a commitment to both traditional and non-traditional students, as well as a focus on building and supporting our internal and external communities, Lisa sees this as an exciting time in the history of the college.
Speaking of history, Lisa is the first woman to hold the top academic leadership post at Westminster. Over the past 140 years, the role of provost has also been called vice president of academic affairs or chief academic officer and, to the best of our research, has always been held by a man. Westminster has been no stranger to influential women. While Lisa is honored to join their ranks, she is passionate about continually improving access in higher education.
Lisa sees access, affordability, and accountability as issues that reach across all of higher education. At Westminster, she’s immediately addressing campus climate, opening communication lines, and clearing roadblocks.
“One of the roles I’ve had and will continue to have is figuring out how to empower people to move things forward on their own.”
Guiding others by providing the tools and clearing the path, Lisa approaches her vision for Westminster’s academic future in much the same way she does those pre-dawn swims. She knows accomplishing a long-range goal takes determination and patience.
“It’s not going to be fast or easy. It’s something you put a plan in place for that takes a while to work through. Instead of expecting it to be quick and easy, expect there to be a process, and that process takes a certain amount of time.”
Lisa Gentile Facts:
Before Westminster, Lisa was the associate dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Richmond, where she focused on working with the community on diversity initiatives, directed academic advising, and led programs to help increase underrepresented populations in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.
Lisa received her BA in chemistry at Colgate University and her PhD in biochemistry at Brown university. She also conducted postdoctoral work in biophysics, supported as a Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellow, at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C.
Last year, Lisa completed the triple crown of open-water marathon swimming in Utah
(Great Salt Lake, eight miles; Bear Lake, seven miles; Deer Creek, 10 miles) and an
open-water ultra-marathon (Bear Lake, 14 miles). Her 2015 goal is to swim the length
of Bear Lake: 19 miles.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.