By Cait Kemp
Through an email sent out campus wide by President Mary-Beth Cooper, Springfield College’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Martha Potvin announced her intention to retire after the fall semester.
Potvin grew up in eastern Connecticut, and attended the University of Connecticut for her undergraduate studies in biology. From there, she went on to complete graduate school at Michigan State University for Botany/Plant Ecology, and then finished up her schooling for her doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
She began her academic career at West Chester University in West Chester, PA, serving as Director of Green Team, the Department of Biology chair, and interim Dean of Graduate Studies during her time there. From there, she moved west to North Dakota, where she first took on the responsibilities of being the interim Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost, and later the Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences.
Her last stop before Alden Street was Montana State University, where she served as the Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost. Finally, she made her way back east to Springfield College where she has been the Provost and Vice President of Student Affairs since 2016.
The one commonality between the schools she previously worked at is that they were all larger public institutions. Coming from a campus population of at least 10,000 students to now dealing with around 2,500 is a change, but Potvin enjoys the more personal level that a small school provides.
She was drawn by Springfield’s tight-knit community and the understanding of the mission of humanics and spirit, mind and body. It was something that she greatly appreciated and wanted to be a part of. Potvin was an athlete in high school, playing field hockey and basketball, so she also admired the college’s passion for athletics and their dedication to being strong and healthy individuals.
“It’s really nice to come to a smaller climate, so I know a lot of employees, you get to meet students…certainly the deans and department chairs, I know them all,” said Potvin. “When I was looking at the position I was saying, you know, ‘what is the institution like?’ and she said, ‘Well everyone is so friendly and everyone knows what the mission is and it’s pretty unique’ and that humanistic philosophy really resonated with me.”
President Mary-Beth Cooper also was someone who drew her to want to be a part of the Springfield College community after interviewing with her personally.
“She told me what things she wanted to have accomplished, and I had experience in doing that and told her I thought I could get it done,” Potvin said.
One of these tasks was reworking the general education curriculum, which was a process to complete but once done, proved to be a great success. Potvin shared that it was one of her greatest accomplishments during her time here, as the curriculum is a unique and very developmental system that allows students to find their interests and really excel as students in higher education.
With Potvin’s expertise, the portfolio of programs being offered was also edited to better suit the needs of students that were coming to Springfield College.
“We spent another couple of years looking at the data for all of the programs and we eliminated a large number of programs, and most of them were concentrations within a major that had very few students in them,” she explained. “So a lot of what we did was cleaning up of the portfolio…I think there were 44 programs that we cleaned up and that left room to talk about what new programs we needed, so we are still talking about that and we have a process in place now to look at what new programs people want to propose.”
She enjoyed working with President Cooper because she was able to work in her own independent way that helped the projects and tasks to be so successful and productive.
“Nobody else has our president. She’s quite charismatic and unlike other institutions she allowed me to be a leader in a way that is my own,” Potvin said.
Being at Springfield College for the past several years, Potvin had a chance to see a lot of different initiatives being implemented, events occurring, and observe the life of the student body that resides on Alden.
“I have enjoyed seeing the energy of the students and having it build as the first week of classes comes, my office looks out over the green here and it’s pretty quiet all summer but you can see more and more things going on.”
She also appreciated the implementation of Harvest Table, noticing how the opportunity to have fresh and healthy food on the tables for students wraps into the whole idea of spirit, mind and body, and the emphasis on health and well-being.
Potvin had nothing but good things to say about her time at Springfield College. From her relationships with coworkers, to her enjoyment of watching students participate in activities and really buy into the philosophy at the school, she was able to not only accomplish big things for the institution, but enjoy doing it.
“I have found it very, very fulfilling. The people I have worked with on the President’s Leadership Team have been great colleagues and we all work together well…” she said.
Moving forward, Potvin plans to enjoy time with her husband, and take some time to do some of the things she loves like gardening, quilting, and knitting. She also is looking forward to visiting her children and grandchildren and spending more quality time with her family.
After her successful career here at Springfield, the community is sad to see her go. Dr. Martha Potvin will surely be missed by her colleagues, faculty and students alike.
Photo Courtesy Springfield College