The reintroduction of Robert F. Vodde: Metropolitan Campus Provost

Bob Vodde with CJ students

Metropolitan Campus Provost Bob Vodde has taught students in the criminal justice program for 16 years at FDU. Now, he's taking on a new administrative role. (Photo by Al Ferreira Photography)

By Kenna Caprio

Robert (Bob) F. Vodde, has worked at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus for 16 years, as a criminal justice professor and administrative chair. Now it’s time to get to know him again: this time as the new Metropolitan Campus provost. “I see my principle role as a facilitator,” he says. “What can I do to get everyone working together?” Here Vodde talks about the priorities, opportunities and challenges to come:

FDU: Based on your background and prior success, what makes you uniquely qualified to be the new Metropolitan Campus provost?

BV: For 25 years, I had the opportunity to be involved in policing and law enforcement, something that, ironically, was never one of my career goals! Rather than immediately beginning my doctoral studies, I followed the advice of an academic advisor, acquiring some practical experience with one of the few departments in the state that required police officers to have a bachelor’s degree. What was intended to be a few years working in policing, led to a 25-year rewarding career. Following working the street for five years, I spent eight years in investigations as a detective; from there I went to first line supervisor, and from first line supervisor to chief of police.

Early on, I was assigned to a regional academy — that’s when I acquired an interest in teaching. Eventually, I got quite involved in teaching at the academy.

I’ve dealt with a lot of management, leadership and administrative areas, so I have a fair amount of experience in dealing with people. The key, in my opinion, is to identify and utilize the skills, talents, and interests of employees.

FDU: Tell us about your new role. What attracted you to the job?

BV: I’d been chair of FDU’s School of Criminal Justice, Political Science, and International Studies for many years, and I was ready for a change.

It’s important to take a global perspective towards understanding the University, and knowing the FDU community as I did, I thought this would be a unique opportunity to apply my experience in developing a campus synergy.

FDU: What’s your vision for the campus? How do the strategic and campus plans factor in?

BV: I’d like to raise the level of awareness, understanding and appreciation of the many units that comprise our University, to develop a synergy among these different units. People spend a lot of their day at work, and so we want to continue to make it the kind of environment where people enjoy coming to work.

I’m very much encouraged by the strategic plan — both from an academic perspective and an operational perspective. I’ll be holding a town hall-style meeting in September, at which University President Capuano will share with the University his vision and plans for the campus. I believe it will serve to reenergize the entire campus community.

FDU: What are your top priorities?

BV: Trying to reach out to the community — all members of the community — and solicit their input, recommendations and feedback. You’re always going to have some people who see the glass as half empty, as opposed to half full. But we’re really all in this together, so what is it that we can do collectively to fulfill the University’s mission?

FDU: Which aspect of the job are you most looking forward to?

BV: I enjoy working with others and problem-solving!

I’m looking forward to building upon outreach to our communities of Teaneck and Hackensack.

I’d like to launch an “understanding series,” which tackles important issues: Black Lives Matter, immigration, Islam, the LGBT community and more. We’d bring in guest speakers with experience, from the campus and community at large.

FDU: How are you going to get acquainted with the student body? How will you support students?

BV: One of the things I plan on doing is meeting with different representatives of the student body, beginning with the Student Government Association (SGA). I think it’s important to reach out to all these diverse student organizations so that I can meet with them, and listen to their concerns, needs and interests. I’m also looking forward to getting involved with athletics, an integral component of our campus community.

FDU: What challenges do you anticipate?

BV: What we want to do is build on the foundation of the University and continue to move it forward. Some challenges are going to be developing new programs, providing new academic opportunities, and being strategic in doing that.

We have to stay competitive and continue to be on the cutting edge. We have to be in tune with the changing landscape of higher education, changing demographics, socioeconomic implications and competitiveness amongst institutions, of which I believe and University President Capuano is well aware.

FDU: What kind of advice did you receive coming into the position?

BV: I received a lot of support and encouragement from the entire community, from outgoing provost Joseph Kiernan, former provost Rich Bronson, and on my first day, I received a call from former assistant provost Rich Panicucci. I was encouraged by his support when he said: “They picked the right guy for the position,” which is especially meaningful coming from him.

FDU: In what ways do you see the campus growing and changing?

BV: The strength of this campus is its diversity. There’s just no better lab than the classroom or our campus, as they’re representative of the community at large.

I’m confident that our campus is going to grow, not just in quantity, but in quality, too. I’d really like to see us become even more recognized within northern New Jersey for who we are — and to expand our footprint.

We’ve reached a new chapter in the growth and maturation of the University, now, with President Capuano at the helm. I think it’s going to be a really exciting time!