Dianne Oliver and Denise Baird named co-provosts of St. Catherine University

The updated leadership structure will reinforce institutional strategic academic priorities.
Dianne Oliver and Denise Baird

Dianne Oliver, PhD, (at left) and Denise Baird, PhD (at right). Photos by Rebecca Zenefski Slater ’10.

St. Catherine University has announced that Dianne Oliver, PhD, and Denise Baird, PhD, will serve as co-provosts of the University. With the departure of former provost Anita Thomas, PhD, the provost position will be succeeded by these two complementary roles.

Baird and Oliver began their new positions on June 1, Baird as senior vice president for academic operations and student success/co-provost and Oliver as senior vice president for academic programs and faculty affairs/co-provost. 

In her new role, Baird will ensure effective operations in academic policies and practices; enhance work in student support, success, and retention; support career initiatives; and lead enhancements of the overall student experience. Oliver will provide leadership to develop and deepen effective and thriving academic programs; strengthen and support the faculty; and enhance our work in engaged learning. Their shared responsibilities will include leading academic visioning and planning, and institutional leadership with long-range planning through the board of trustees and the president’s senior leadership team. This work in vision, planning, and implementing strategic academic priorities will ensure that St. Kate’s continues to thrive and serve as a transformational educational space for our students. 

“Denise and Dianne undertaking these new responsibilities mark a transformative chapter for our University,” said President ReBecca Koenig Roloff ’76. “Their combined expertise and dedication will infuse our institution with fresh perspectives, innovative strategies, and a steadfast focus on excellence. They model the best of women in leadership.”

Modeling a new structure of leadership

In their roles as co-provosts, Baird and Oliver will continue the successful work done in the Office of Academic Success, student affairs, the Library, and the Career Development Center; strengthen a culture of assessment and continuous improvement that fosters student success; expand the impact of the Office of Scholarly Engagement; and accelerate faculty development through the Teaching Hub and mission chair engagement.

Baird, who joined St. Kate’s as assistant provost in July 2020, has led the University in launching its first federal TRIO program, as well as a summer college transition experience for incoming first-time college students. Most recently, Baird steered the University’s reaffirmation of accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission.

“The challenges facing higher education require attention and focus on the systems and structures that enable us to deliver high quality academic programs to students from a wide range of backgrounds,” said Baird. “As the needs of our institutions and our student populations have changed dramatically over the last decade, so must our model of leadership to ensure that all students at St. Catherine University have the best possible educational experience. I am honored by and eager for the opportunity to serve as co-provost alongside Dianne.”

Oliver joined St. Kate’s as associate provost in January 2022, and has overseen the quality of University academic programs, promoted student and faculty research, led faculty development efforts, including launching a Teaching Hub, furthered engaged learning initiatives, and collaborated with the Faculty Senate, administration, and the Board of Trustees to re-envision shared governance. 

“Partnership as a model for leadership fits especially well with who St. Kate’s is and with the wide-ranging responsibilities of the provost role,” Oliver said. “Denise and I bring different strengths to this work, and are excited to collaborate with one another and the rest of the St. Kate’s community as we continue to create the best possible spaces to educate women to lead and influence.”