Sian Beilock, Ron Thisted named to new Vice Provost roles

Provost Eric D. Isaacs announced appointments to two new Vice Provost roles to support faculty and students in their work.

Sian Beilock, professor of psychology and the College and a member of the Committee on Education, will serve as Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives. Ronald Thisted, professor of public health sciences, statistics, anesthesia and critical care and the College, will become the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.

In a letter to faculty, Isaacs said these new roles are envisioned as full-time appointments for faculty members.

“Sian and Ronald will work closely with the deputy and associate provosts to promote a culture of excellence in faculty and student recruitment and retention, while nurturing our core values, and supporting faculty as they pursue the most ambitious intellectual agendas” said Isaacs.  

As Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives, Beilock will work with the deans, chairs, faculty and deputy provosts to help coordinate and implement academic programs that go beyond the prerogatives of a single division, school or institute. These include areas such as urban science and practice, energy and the environment, and the arts and culture, which involve many traditional academic fields and at the same time benefit from integration with other efforts on campus such as Civic Engagement and Global Engagement.

The Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives also will help support, on behalf of the Provost, the centers and institutes that report directly to the Provost, such as the Becker Friedman Institute, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, and the Urban Education Institute, ensuring that they are well integrated into the overall academic structure.

Beilock, who joined the faculty in 2005, researches topics at the intersection of cognitive science and education. She studies the psychological and neural processes that influence performance, from test-taking to public speaking to professional athletics. She employs a wide range of methods in her work, such as measures of performance, physiological measures of stress, and neuroimaging techniques. 

Beilock has authored two books and more than 80 peer-reviewed publications. She works extensively with educators and those involved in public policy, including recently serving on a National Research Council committee on decision-making and stress.  Beilock received a BS in Cognitive Science from the University of California, San Diego, and PhDs in both Kinesiology and Psychology from Michigan State University.

As Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Thisted will work with the deans and chairs on faculty appointments, promotions, recruitments and retention. He will provide leadership in navigating an increasingly complex regulatory environment for research and publication, ensuring that key areas of compliance and policy do not detract from engaging in scholarship, innovation and education.

The Vice Provost for Academic Affairs will foster a service-oriented approach to the many roles in faculty life and academic affairs overseen by the Provost, Isaacs wrote. He will also take the lead, on behalf of the Provost, on key research, education, and individual issues. 

Thisted’s research involves statistical computation, statistical methods for understanding and visualizing data, research reproducibility, and the design and analysis of clinical trials and epidemiologic studies, with particular attention to prostate cancer and to neurological diseases such as ALS, MS, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and stroke.

Thisted’s writing includes 150 publications on a wide array of topics that include statistical methods, computation, public health, religion, and Shakespearean vocabulary.

Thisted served as chair of health studies (now public health sciences), co-director of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars program, co-director of the Clinical Research Training Program, director of the biostatistics core facility in the Comprehensive Cancer Center, and co-director of population sciences in the Institute for Translational Medicine.

He is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A recipient of the University’s Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Thisted received a BA in philosophy and mathematics from Pomona College and MS and PhD degrees in statistics from Stanford University.

Isaacs also thanked John Mark Hansen, the Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science and the College and Senior Advisor to the President who, in addition to his other duties, has provided interim leadership in the Office of the Provost for academic integrity and compliance since July.