Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs and senior counselor to the president for the arts, diversity, and undergraduate affairs, will swap his top leadership office for the classroom and field research in July 2014.
“I love this job, and deeply appreciate the opportunities it affords me to help shape the academic and cultural life of the university. I am also passionate about teaching, and am in the early stages of developing three new courses,” said Monts, Thurnau Professor and professor of music (ethnomusicology) in the School of Music, Theatre, & Dance.
“My research plans are coming together well, extending my work with the Vai people of Liberia,“ said Monts, one of the world’s leading scholars on music and culture in the Guinea coast region of West Africa. “Also, new research endeavors are taking shape in China and right here in Michigan.”
As senior vice provost, Monts works with the provost on a broad range of academic issues. Recent areas of focus include programs and policies on transfer and undocumented students, student veterans, and student orientation.
“Since his arrival at U-M in 1993, Lester Monts has made extraordinary contributions to this university,” said Provost Martha E. Pollack. “As we look for a successor, we will seek someone who shares the same institutional values of fairness and inclusion that Lester helped to weave into the fabric of this university. We are firmly committed to building on that foundation for the future.”
In the words of Ralph Williams, Thurnau Professor Emeritus and professor emeritus of English, “Lester Monts is a profoundly good man, who has been behind much that is good at Michigan in the last 20 years. Because of who he is and the structuring of his office, excellence and diversity in an American university necessarily appear not as separate concerns but as inseparable parts of the same concern.
“Personally, Lester’s support has been crucial in whatever I have been able to achieve for the university and our students. In many ways, the best of my career is unthinkable without his advice, support and good spirit,” Williams said.
Monts established numerous awards and honors that recognize distinction in diversity, including the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award (all faculty); the Shirley Verrett Award (Center for the Education of Women); and the Percy Bates/Don Deskins Award for Academic and Athletic Excellence (student athletes), among others.
“Lester Monts has been nothing short of a guardian angel to the faculty of color on campus. The majority of us would not be here were it not for him, his example, his advocacy and the Provost’s Faculty Initiatives Program that he has championed throughout his tenure at U-M,” said Kelly Askew, associate professor of anthropology and of Afroamerican and African studies, and director of the U-M African Studies Center.
A co-founder of ASC and of the Center for World Performance Studies, Monts also established the Center for Educational Outreach; Global Intercultural Experiences for Undergraduates; the Council on Global Engagement; Vice Provosts Associate Deans Group, to complement the work of academic programs; the Office of New Student Programs; the National Center for Institutional Diversity; and the Confucius Institute at the University of Michigan, for which he helped define its unique role in the study of Chinese music and art in the United States.
“Lester Monts’ undying commitment to undergraduate education, diversity and the arts, and to supporting the people and programs that lift up and celebrate these distinctive features of the university has led to transformative change throughout our campus,” said Kenneth C. Fischer, president of the University Musical Society. “When I think specifically of UMS and of how much more engaged, global, diverse — and better — we are today, I see Lester’s influence everywhere.”
Beyond U-M, Monts has served as member and chair of numerous boards, including the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Senior Diversity Officers board of the CIC, and the College Board, where he helped to shape the National Task Force on the Arts in Education and the Arts at the Core initiative. He holds honorary professorships at several distinguished institutions of higher education in China.
Previously, Monts served on the music faculties of Edinboro University, University of Minnesota, Case Western Reserve University and the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he served as dean of undergraduate affairs and directed the undergraduate honors program in the College of Letters and Science.
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The School of Music, Theatre & Dance presents the dark comedy “Red Noses” Oct. 3-13 in the Walgreen Drama Center, Arthur Miller Theatre.