Outstanding Faculty Support

Courtney Thornton and Katie Perry

Provost’s Office staff help strengthen NC State’s academic reputation by managing various services within Faculty Affairs. One such staff member, Dr. Katie Perry, senior vice provost and professor emerita, will retire at the end of the semester after serving NC State full- and part-time for 37 years. She’ll then hand over many of her responsibilities to Dr. Courtney Thornton, associate vice provost for academic personnel and policy and an NC State College of Education alumna.

We spoke with Perry and Thornton about their respective roles, the ways they support faculty and how their efforts create a culture of comprehensive excellence at the university.

Dr. Katie Perry, Senior Vice Provost and Professor Emerita

How long have you been in your position/at the university?

I have been at NC State since March 1980. I retired as senior vice provost in 2009. I was professor of horticultural science and associate dean for administration in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences prior to that. I returned in late 2009 to help part-time in the Provost’s Office and have been assistant to the provost.

What is your role in the Provost’s Office?

My part-time role has been to assist with faculty affairs. This includes the reappointment, promotion and tenure process, the post-tenure review process, the awarding of Professors of Distinction, providing support to the University Space Committee, serving as “unofficial historical perspective consultant,” and taking on other tasks as needed.

How do your efforts align with the university’s strategic plan?

My efforts have primarily supported recruitment and retention of our fabulous faculty.

What do you do to support faculty in their academic careers?

I have primarily supported department heads and deans in faculty personnel issues. My work in the RPT process has directly supported faculty, as our system is one of the most transparent and equitable systems, for which we have been nationally recognized.

What has been your favorite part of your job?

I have always loved learning about and helping support the university as a whole. Being able to see the accomplishments of our faculty is truly an awe-inspiring experience. Working with the leadership of NC State has been so rewarding. I have had the privilege of working for a stellar department head, two top-notch deans and three incredible provosts. NC State is so fortunate to have such leaders.

What are your plans in retirement?

Well, I’ve pretty much been doing it since 2009 — work some, travel, enjoy my family and enjoy our lake home. We have grandchildren, so they are a big source of fun. I love the water, boating, floating, tubing and kayaking. Now that I won’t be working part-time, I hope to do some volunteer work.

What is your fondest NC State memory?

I could never pick just one, but they all have the common denominator of wonderful people. Getting to work with such dedicated, smart, creative and caring people has been a true joy. I can honestly say I was always happy and grateful to go to work. I think the proof in that is that I spent my entire career at NC State!

Dr. Courtney Thornton, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Personnel and Policy

What is your role in the Provost’s Office?

I work in the office of Dr. Katharine Stewart, vice provost for faculty affairs. In my first few weeks here, I’ve heard her say many times that the role of our unit is to ensure that NC State’s faculty have productive and successful careers. My specific role in our office is to help faculty, departments and colleges interpret and follow a wide range of related NC State and system policies and procedures. For example, I help manage areas including post-tenure review, distinguished professorships, instructor qualifications and much more.

How do your efforts align with the university’s strategic plan?

NC State’s strategic plan is very clear that investing in excellent faculty is a top priority. I think an administrative role like mine must look at existing or new policies and procedures through the lens of our strategic plan and ask questions such as, “In doing this, are we supporting faculty excellence?” Or, as Katharine Stewart would say, “Does this help our faculty have productive and successful careers?”

What do you do to support faculty in their academic careers?

The work of our office really covers the lifespan of a faculty member, from orienting them to NC State, to promotion and tenure, to phased retirement and many other milestones in between. NC State is incredibly successful because our faculty are creative and engaged. Part of the role of an office like ours is to encourage those creative, engaged ways of working while also meeting federal, state or system requirements. It can be a balancing act, but one that should still allow our faculty to work at the highest levels toward meeting our mission.

What attracted you to NC State?

I have four degrees from NC State [B.S. Science Education ‘96, B.A. Chemistry ‘96, M.S. Higher Education ‘03, Ed.D. Higher Education Administration ‘06] and also worked here about 15 years ago, so this was very much a homecoming for me. NC State attracts brilliant faculty and students who also stay very grounded and approachable. Our land-grant mission is a special one, and I appreciate how it shows in our approach to working across boundaries and to solving everyday problems.

What are you most looking forward to in your new position.

I was at the University of North Carolina General Administration system office for the past nine years. The experiences and perspectives I gained there were unique and valuable, but it was also a big step removed from individual faculty and students. I’m most excited about being able to work directly with and for faculty and students again and at a place I love.

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