Provost returns to faculty

Mittie Nimocks Den Herder’s last day as provost of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville will be on June 30, but she will be returning to campus in the fall. Nimocks Den Herder has worked for UW-Platteville for 30 years and those who have worked with her characterize her as someone who cares deeply about teaching and learning, and someone who demonstrates personal integrity even when asked to step aside.

Chancellor Dennis Shields requested Nimocks Den Herder’s resignation approximately six weeks ago, he said. The resignation was announced in an April 11 email sent to faculty and staff.

“I essentially made the decision and out of respect for her, and her contributions, I wanted to give her time and opportunity [to think things through] before the announcement was made,” Shields said. He also said that he did not give any reasons for asking for Nimocks Den Herder’s resignation and she said that she did not ask him for any.

“I’m disappointed,” Nimocks Den Herder said. “It’s not the way I would have wanted my [administrative career] to end.” Nimocks Den Herder grew up in Hattiesburg, Miss., in a family of public school teachers. She said that Platteville is the smallest town she has ever lived in and that the loss of anonymity was “unsettling” at first. She came to UW-Platteville as a speech communications professor before becoming Interim LAE Dean and then LAE Dean. She became provost in 2010.

BILSA Dean Wayne Weber has worked with Nimocks Den Herder since they were fellow faculty members, albeit in different colleges and said he has “nothing but utmost respect for [Nimocks Den Herder] as provost.” As BILSA Dean, the provost is his direct supervisor.

“She’s a person of impeccable character,” Weber said. “Her heart has always been completely in the right place. She is a true champion for academics and for higher education.”

Philosophy professor Shane Drefcinski, who reports to the provost as Director of General Education, said she is a “kind-hearted person.”

“She would allow me and others who worked underneath her to do our jobs with a lot of freedom and without micromanaging,” Drefcinski said. “She struggled playing the bad cop at times. It isn’t her personality.”

Nimocks Den Herder said that as of right now she has no plans to retire after the 2016-17 academic year. She also said that she is looking forward to teaching again.

“I have to say I always felt like I was a better teacher than I was an administrator,” Nimocks Den Herder said. She said it might be a “blessing in disguise” to return to teaching in the fall.  Although she said she dislikes using war metaphors—she wrote her doctorate dissertation on the use of non-violence as a persuasive tool—she described it as “an opportunity to get back to the trenches.” Nimocks Den Herder said that because of ongoing budget reductions, she wanted to be sure she wasn’t displacing anybody by returning to teaching and that her classes will be taught in addition to those already planned. Shields said her salary will be coming out of one time money and that although she is entitled to a sabbatical, she wanted to return to teaching.

“I think this is an opportunity for the campus,” Shields said. He also said that there are always difficult decisions to be made and that while people often prefer to avoid conflict, he is “a believer in confronting the issues, having the discussion, but it doesn’t always have to be angry. It can be passionate, but it can be civil. Dr. Den Herder is an example of how you go about being true to your convictions and doing it in a way that isn’t destructive to the institution.”

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