Riding the bus to school 30 years ago, Donald Para often dreamed of one day becoming a musician. He figured the best way to fulfill his dream was to become a university professor and help others develop their musical talents.
“Being a university provost or president wasn’t even on the radar,” Para said.
A lot has changed for Para, who last week was appointed as Cal State Long Beach’s interim president after a 25-year career that has seen him rise from professor up the administrative chain.
Para will assume the position of interim president July 1 and serve until a new president is selected in early spring 2014, according to CSULB Spokesman Rick Gloady.
Para started his career at CSULB as a music professor in 1988 and served as the music department’s chair for 12 years. He then became associate dean for the College of the Arts before becoming the college’s dean, a position he held for eight years. He was appointed as the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs in May 2011.
It’s that campus experience that Associated Student Inc. Vice President Jonathon Bolin said makes Para a good selection for the job.
“I think it’s an obvious and logical choice,” he said. “It was the decision we were all hoping for. It’s only a year term, and when it’s only a year, you really want to choose someone who knows about the university. I think he’s going to do a great job.”
Daniel O’Connor, chair of CSULB’s Academic Senate, said he has worked with Para on numerous occasions and as provost, he has done an “outstanding” job. He said that Para brings exactly what CSULB needs in the university’s transitional period.
“Interim assignments can be, by their very nature, destabilizing to campuses because there is the potential to have three different leaders with different visions, working and leadership style . . . in the span of one academic year,” O’Connor said via email. “Provost Para’s appointment represents an excellent choice for allowing the campus to continue on the path it has adopted.”
Para, who said his time as Provost served as a training ground for the duties of interim president, said his main focus serving as interim president is to continue helping students succeed academically.
“Our academic purpose is to graduate students with highly valued degree,” he said. “That is not going to change, and it is going to keep moving forward.”
A replacement to fill Para’s position as provost and senior vice president of academic affairs has yet to be announced. It is also unknown if the replacement will be permanent or temporary, according to Gloady.
Gloady said that because CSULB President F. King Alexander will remain in his position until June 28, who will take on Para’s previous position is still Alexander’s decision. However, if a replacement is not found until after July 1, the decision will be Para’s.
The process for selecting a new provost and senior vice president of academic affairs will likely be a consultative process involving multiple campus members, Gloady said.