If you participated in Dance Marathon in 1991, you’d find, among the masses of undergraduates, future Provost Dan Linzer sweating on the dance floor. As part of the first faculty group to participate in DM, Linzer told The Daily Northwestern that getting out with the “young folks” was a bit daunting, but he and his compatriots helped to raise nearly $190,000 for charity, helping set what was then DM’s record for donations.
But even before his dancin’ days, Linzer was making an impression.
He joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology as an assistant professor in 1984, and in 1985 he was named one of 20 Searle Scholars, a prestigious award from the Chicago Community Trust for younger researchers that paid $180,000 over three years. The next school year, he was named to ASG’s Faculty Honor Roll.
After nearly 20 years as a professor, including time as an associate dean, Linzer was announced as the new dean of Weinberg in February 2001, replacing Eric Sundquist. He took over the position’s responsibilities in 2002. During his five years as Weinberg’s dean, Linzer helped to pioneer new programs like Global Health Studies and the Kellogg Certificate in Financial Economics, expand liberal arts curricula, and establish the Alice Kaplan Humanities Program. Under his watch, applications to Weinberg increased by more than 60 percent. In September 2007, President Henry Bienen selected Linzer as his right-hand man, a position officially known as the provost.
Although Linzer's almost decade-long tenure as provost has been filled with plenty of ups and downs, his departure from Northwestern at the end of this academic year will affect many. After more than 30 years at Northwestern, he will no doubt leave a legacy – both good and bad – for many years to come. Here are five lasting impacts from Linzer’s time as provost.
Northwestern Strategic Plan
One of the ways Linzer will likely influence Northwestern after his retirement is through Northwestern’s Strategic Plan, which was unveiled in October 2011. The plan identified four overarching goals: to discover creative solutions to contemporary challenges across the world, extend academic experiences beyond the classroom, create a more inclusive and united community on campus and connect Northwestern to Chicago and global communities. These plans have resulted in updated facilities, increased academic opportunities for students and strengthened alumni relations. They have been spurred on by more than $3 billion of donations since the fundraising campaign launched in March 2014.
Institute for Sustainability and Energy
The Institute for Sustainability and Energy was originally launched as a five-year research initiative under then-President Henry Bienen in 2008 to address a gap on research in energy and sustainability. Linzer was responsible for approving the funding that created the institute in 2013. Since its creation, the institute has created new opportunities for students to pursue an interdisciplinary curriculum through nine new classes that are available to all undergraduate students, formed a collaboration space in the J wing of Tech, funded innovative projects like building solar cars and launched small companies like SiNode, an energy-efficient alternative to typical lithium batteries.
“[Provost Linzer] was on board right from the word ‘go’ and it’s done wonders for promoting the whole field and really consolidating things that have allowed us to move forward in a vigorous and energetic way,” says ISEN Executive Director Michael Wasielewski.
Global Strategy Task Force
After Roberta Buffett donated more than $100 million to Northwestern in May 2015, the largest single gift in Northwestern history, Linzer launched a 12-person Global Strategy Task Force to explore ways Northwestern could use the money to increase its global activity and engagement over the next 10 years. According to Kellogg Dean Mary Blount, who co-chaired the project with Executive Vice President Nim Chinniah, the task force engaged approximately 500 faculty, students and staff during the 18 months before they released their report last November.
Blout wrote in an email, “Our hope is that the Task Force’s work will catalyze significant global activity across the university, both in enabling the university to expand our global horizons and to integrate global perspectives more deeply into our intellectual life within the U.S.”
The task force developed six “Global Themes” that Northwestern should focus on to shape its global strategy and action, though it remains unclear exactly how the funding will be delegated.
Karl Eikenberry Appointment to Buffett Institute
In 2015, the newly created Buffett Institute for Global Studies needed an executive director. In November, Schapiro and Linzer named former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry to fill the role. However, his appointment was met with disapproval from Northwestern faculty and students, most notably political science professor Jacqueline Stevens.
Stevens said Northwestern’s trustees ignored normal hiring practices in their selection of Eikenberry, who lacked a Ph.D. and did not make a campus visit prior to the appointment. She later wrote in a letter co-signed by professors Jorge Coronado and Michael P. Ginsburg that Eikenberry’s refusal to distribute his CV and his “deeply disturbing statements on behalf of the Rwandan government and its military” made him an unsuitable candidate to lead the institute. Linzer, along with Schapiro, Eikenberry defended before the Faculty Senate at ASG. However, his defense sometimes put him on shaky ground – he called the opposition to Eikenberry a “conspiracy theory” and warned then-ASG President Noah Star that a student-proposed resolution to rescind the appointment could be grounds for legal defamation. In the end, however, Linzer emailed Buffett faculty in April 2016 that Eikenberry would not become the executive director for the institute.
Ending Women’s Center Counseling
In September 2016, Linzer sent an email to Northwestern undergraduate students stating that counseling services would no longer be offered at the Women’s Center, and would instead be absorbed by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). For students like SESP junior Ariana Hammersmith, the decision made accessing mental health care more difficult because of the long wait-times at CAPS. However, Linzer defended the decision, pointing to the fact that CAPS had lifted its 12-session limit.
“Initially, I was shocked and disappointed when I heard counseling services at the Women’s Center would end. I was abroad and struggling to find short-term counseling, so the news that I wouldn’t be able to return when I got back to Evanston was frankly devastating,” Hammersmith says. “I’d like to see the reinstatement of counseling at the Women’s Center and the expansion of CAPS by increasing funding and the size of the staff in order to reduce wait times and provide a long-term model of mental health care.”