by Shelbey Hernandez
The Lance – News Editor
The UWindsor provost was five minutes late.
It wasn’t for any business-related reason, nor was it because he simply had more important concerns. In fact, the only reason why he was late was so he could talk with the members of the University Players, who stood outside the same building he would be sitting in for the next two hours.
So why he was late was for the same reason he showed up in the first place: to connect with the UWindsor population through a monthly event he created last year called the Meet the Provost. For a couple hours once a month, UWindsor provost Douglas Kneale sits in a different building each time, making himself available for anyone to speak to about anything. It was his idea to start this up.
“I came on board in March 2015 and so the first thing I wanted to do as someone arriving in a new place was to meet as many people as I could, get to know them, get to know their work and what’s going on in their professional lives as members of the University of Windsor community,” said Kneale. “We’re all so busy doing what we do day-to-day so I thought, ‘I need to get out of the office and go around campus, different locations and different sites once a month and just talk to people who come by.’ There’s no agenda, there’s no set theme or anything, it is just an opportunity for me to meet faculty, staff and students and for them to have access to the provost.”
Even though he was suited-up and appeared ready for a business meeting, somehow, he managed to carry himself casually, as though the word “casual” was an object, tucked away nicely inside his navy blue jacket pocket.
When he first started doing this, he was nervous and thought no one would show but he was wrong.
“Before I started, I thought I might be like the Maytag repairman,” said Kneale. “I would hang up a sign and I might sit there for two hours and no one would come by but it’s been just the opposite and the most interesting part of it all is when people have asked me, ‘So what did people like about this opportunity to be one-on-one with the provost or unplugged and seated or in the provost corner, whatever name you want to give to it?’ and the overwhelming response was they just appreciate the accessibility.”
Each time he hosts these meetings, it is in a different building. This time, he was in the Toldo Health Education building, which was a first. Accompanying him was a suggestion box, because he wanted to make sure people could feel comfortable putting in their say even if they didn’t want to tell him directly.
Aside from the sit-down part of it, Kneale said there is also a Question of the Month. This has been done since he started as well and was also his idea. All the questions are ones he asked during UWindsor job interviews, including the first one he ever asked which was, “How do you define student success?” That question had been asked during the interview process of hiring Ryan Flannagan, the AVP.
Again, Kneale was worried no one would answer but, like before, he was wrong. There were around 200 responses for the first question which he said proved how much UWindsor likes a certain level of inclusion.
“It’s just another form of engagement. Here I am sitting here, out in public and just talking to people who swing by,” said Kneale, first discussing the Meet the Provost. “We have faculty who respond and staff and students. People may think the questions are primarily for students but it’s for everyone in the campus and it’s another way to get people talking, to build a conversation. We post them on the provost website so people can read them and reflect.”
The current question is “What does promise mean to you?” which is inspired by the promise campaign. The campus has until the end of October to submit their responses and Kneale will be picking a winner by the beginning of November and posting the winner on his website.