Sally McRorie serves as Florida State University’s Provost. She works hand in hand with President Thrasher to keep the University running smoothly and is the second-highest-ranking officer at the University. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. McRorie, getting to know how she got to where she is, and what plans she has for the future of Florida State.
Her Campus (HC): In your words, what exactly does the Provost do?
Sally McRorie (SM): The provost is responsible for all of the academic parts of the campus. So, I work with the President, who has his one set of responsibilities. He’s in charge of the whole campus but mainly focuses on fundraising, working with boards, working with legislature and athletics. What I do is oversee all of the deans who oversee all of the department chairs who oversee all of the faculty members. I’m also responsible for all of the institutes and centers, and we have quite a few. I am responsible for admissions, for registration, financial aid, institutional research, all of our recordings for accreditation… It goes on and on – it’s a lot. Anything that is of an academic nature is what I’m responsible for.
HC: Out of all that you do, what do you think contributed the most to FSU’s new academic ranking? (Referring to FSU’s recent jump to No. 18 in the nation for public universities.)
SM: A number of things. We have always, at Florida State, been very student-focused. I came here from Purdue University where I was the department chair. When I came here, I thought I would only be here four or five years, but I just loved the history of the focus on students and student success here. We’ve gotten a lot better at that. Student success is the reason that we moved up to number 18, no question about it. And that entails a lot of things; it means we’re able to hire more faculty, we’re able to improve our faculty to student ratio. In fact, over 50 percent of our classes are offered with 19 or fewer students. That’s something that’s important not just for the students but also for the faculty. I’m also very proud of our graduation rate. That was a very big factor, as well. 83 percent of our students graduate within six years, which is very good, but the better figure is that 71.5 percent of our students graduate in four years. That’s awesome. That’s better than anyone else in the state of Florida and is a historic high for the state of Florida. It puts us within the top 10 programs in the country in terms of graduation rate.
HC: Do you have any plans for FSU in the near future?
SM: We’re going to continue to focus on student success at every level. At this point, we’re really trying to grow our graduate programs, particularly at the master’s level. And we have a new program that we’re calling “More in Four.” This is a program we started this fall. Many of our brand new students come in with a lot of hours that they’ve earned during high school, through dual enrollment, AP or IB. So, we want them to finish in four years, but a lot of our students are able to finish in four years and have multiple majors and minors. What we’re focusing on with More in Four is to finish your major, maybe do one minor, but that last year, while you still have scholarship dollars, start taking master’s level programs. Many of our students, if they plan correctly, can finish a master’s degree in addition to their B.A. or B.S. in four years. Or make a lot of progress towards that completion. Secondly, career preparation so that when students leave us after they graduate, they’re prepared to go on to graduate school, professional education or the careers that they’re interested in.
HC: As a woman, do you feel that you’re looked at differently or held to a different standard than your male colleagues?
SM: Certainly throughout my career, I have been. No question about it. I think at this point in my career, not so much. However, it was very different when I was a younger person. For example, when I was a junior professor at Purdue University, in my department, the only people who made decisions about 10-year and promotions were old, white men. And, I was the only faculty member in my department that had any children. So there was no understanding of what that might do to one’s ability to do all the things you need to do as a really good faculty member. I was lucky that I was successful, but I think for many women over the years, it’s been a hard hull in a lot of ways. Once you reach a certain point, it becomes less so. But if you look around, you can see that women are still not where their male counterparts are. There are not that many university presidents, especially at large research institutions. I’m only the second woman who’s been a Provost here and we’ve never had a female President. That tells you something, especially because we, at one point, were the women’s college. Personally, at this point, I feel respected by my colleagues and I don’t have any issues speaking up and saying what I think. But that certainly hasn’t always been the case.
HC: What helped you reach your current position? Whether it’s past experiences, family, etc.
SM: I always had a passion to work hard. I think I got that from my mom and dad. Especially my father, who was the oldest of 13 children and had to quit school when he was in the eighth grade to help support his family. I always saw him work very hard and he was a very smart and gifted person. He worked for the A&P Food Stores. He started there as a bag boy when he was 16 and when he retired, he was Regional Vice President. Now, he did all of that with an eighth-grade education. But he was able to do it because he worked really hard, he was smart and he made good decisions, and he worked well with people. When I would walk into the store, everyone would say “Oh, you’re Mr. Mack’s daughter! We love him!” So, I’ve always tried to work really hard and treat people how I would want to be treated myself and make sure we build teams. I have a great team here at my office. They’re really great. We have worked together for the last five years very carefully with a plan on how to move up into the top 25. When we made the jump from No. 26 to 18, it was thrilling. It was largely due to our ability to work together.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dr. McRorie. She has definitely become one of my role models. Dr. McRorie has overcome many obstacles in her life, including the hardships that come with being a working woman and a first-generation college student. She has already achieved many great things at FSU and has some notable plans for the future.
All photos courtesy of FSU Photography Services.