Nancy Mergler, University of Oklahoma Senior Vice President and Provost for the Norman campus since 1995, has announced her intent to return to classroom teaching and resign her administrative post as Provost, effective June 1, after serving successfully in that role for almost 20 years.
As the chief academic officer for OU’s Norman campus, the Provost is responsible for intellectual standards, institutional planning and budgeting, and the recruitment, retention and development of faculty and students as well as program development and review, academic policies and procedures, and enrollment management.
While serving as Provost, Mergler implemented a 10-year plan for increasing library resources, recruited and hired more than 80 faculty for endowed positions, added more than 50 faculty to the Norman campus, and strengthened admission standards for undergraduates.
“It is impossible for me to adequately thank Dr. Nancy Mergler for her outstanding leadership as Provost and earlier at the Honors College,” said OU President David L. Boren. “She has been a great source of strength and wise advice for me. In every decision she has sought to put the University’s best interests ahead of all other considerations,” Boren said.
“It has been a great honor for me to serve the students, faculty and staff as the Chief Academic Officer for the Norman Campus for the past two decades,” Mergler said. “What has been accomplished during that era is the result of President Boren’s vibrant and caring leadership for this beloved institution; the work of the talented and generous donors, alumni, vice presidents, deans, chairs and directors; and marvelous students, faculty, and staff.”
Boren said that he will recommend to the OU Board of Regents that award-winning educator and author Kyle Harper, who has served as senior vice provost for OU’s Norman campus since Jan. 1, 2013, be named interim Provost and Senior Vice President.
“Dr. Mergler has helped to train Dr. Harper, who will become interim Provost,” Boren said. “His own skill as a scholar and leader is well known. He will continue the effective leadership from the Provost’s Office.”
A psychologist, Mergler joined OU in 1987 as director of OU’s Honors program, where she served for almost 10 years, effectively growing and developing the program and positioning it for elevation to college status.
She also has guided the transition of a variety of programs to college status and mentored the first deans, including the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, the College of International Studies and the Honors College.
She oversaw the expansion of professional academic advisers to better assist students to make effective progress toward their degrees, helped advance a new electronic student record system and oversaw the creation of the Academic Integrity Council.
Mergler worked collaboratively with the Norman campus Faculty Senate to implement a post-tenure review policy, oversaw the creation of the online system for tenure and promotion review and helped hire a new dean for University Libraries, a post that had not been vacant for 35 years. She continues to champion the OU Libraries as a critical academic resource for faculty and students.
Harper has been assisting the Provost on major, new academic initiatives, including working with the President’s Task Force on comprehensive curriculum review and delivery methods for first-year classes and as a liaison to a working group on digital technology.
“It’s impossible to summarize how much I've learned from Nancy Mergler,” Harper said. “She has been a selfless leader with a truly broad vision of how to improve the university for students, faculty, and the community. I'm honored and excited by the opportunity I now have to serve the entire university family.”
A faculty member in OU’s Department of Classics and Letters, Harper also serves as director of OU’s Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage, which three years ago launched the University’s successful Teach-In series on Constitutionalism, drawing an audience of thousands throughout the daylong, annual events. The Teach-In has been broadcast on OETA and posted on iTunesU, where it has been downloaded by tens of thousands of viewers from Belgium to Bulgaria and Kazakhstan to Korea.
He also created and introduced “Freedom.ou.edu,” an OU website featuring a weekly series of short lectures on constitutional law and constitutional history, making civic education available to anyone any time. The program is designed to enhance civic education – on campus and beyond. Freedom.ou.edu was conceived as a way to share the resources of OU with the public.
Harper teaches a range of courses on Greek and Roman history, early Christianity, late antiquity and ancient law. For his exceptional teaching, he was awarded the Irene Rothbaum Outstanding Faculty Award in 2011.
A highly sought lecturer and prolific writer, Harper was recipient of the prestigious James Henry Breasted Prize by the American Historical Association for his book, Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275-425, published by Cambridge University Press in 2011. In 2013, he was named a recipient of the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, a national award honoring scholars, artists and scientists who are selected on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise. Guggenheim Fellows represent a wide variety of backgrounds, fields of study and accomplishments. Harper was selected in the field of European and American History based on his research project, The Fall of the Roman Empire: A Biohistory.