December 8, 2023

Smith named provost and Wagner executive vice president

Robert Wagner has been named executive vice president of USU, and Laurens H. (Larry) Smith has been named provost. Wagner and Smith will assume their new roles on July 1, 2022.

Utah State University President Noelle E. Cockett has named Laurens H. (Larry) Smith as provost and Robert W. Wagner as executive vice president, both effective when Executive Vice President and Provost Frank Galey retires on July 1, 2022.

This represents a reconfiguration of the executive vice president/provost roles.

“Over the last 22 years, the size and scope of the university has greatly expanded,” said President Cockett. “This led to my decision to divide the EVP and provost responsibilities and assign them to two people rather than place everything on a single individual.”

As EVP, Wagner will focus on operations, while Smith will focus solely on academics in the provost role. While direct reporting lines will remain the same, with university vice presidents reporting to President Cockett and the deans reporting to the provost, the new EVP role will provide a broad leadership role in managing the day-to-day operations of USU.

Instead of conducting an external search, President Cockett looked to the expertise on her existing executive team to fill these positions. Smith has been vice president for statewide campuses since August 2020 after holding that interim role since May 2019. In this position, he has overseen more than 30 campuses, centers and academic facilities.

Smith previously served as interim vice president and dean of the Office of Research and Graduate Studies from 2018 to 2019, and when the offices split, he retained his role as interim vice president for research. From 2016 to 2018, he served as interim provost.

“Dr. Smith has worked in several administrative areas for the university and played an important role in USU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” President Cockett said. “He is uniquely qualified to help the university meet the challenges ahead as the next provost.”

Wagner has led Academic and Instructional Services at USU since it was formed in 2015 while serving in the Provost’s Office and as Vice President. Wagner came to the university in 2007 and has been a national leader promoting innovation and transformation. While at USU his administrative responsibilities have continued to expand and include enrollment management, all aspects of instructional operations and overall student success. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, his AIS teams played a critical role in quickly moving classes and university operations online.

“Dr. Wagner’s organizational skills and leadership have always helped USU stay on the forefront of higher education — particularly over the past two and a half years,” said President Cockett.

“I’m confident that the combination of Dr. Smith and Dr. Wagner in these new roles will allow USU to continue to expand as a top-tier public university and in our important role as a land-grant institution,” President Cockett said, noting that the pair will follow a provost and EVP who has had a tremendous impact on the university.

“I have deeply appreciated the opportunity to work with Dr. Galey over the past four years,” she said. “He has been instrumental to USU’s success in a wide variety of ways, including his input and advice on many issues, his oversight of the university’s academic matters, his leadership of the dean’s council, and his interactions with faculty, department heads, external stakeholders and communities.”

Galey played a key leadership role in the university’s successful navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic. He organized and implemented USU’s on-campus COVID-19 sampling process and PCR testing lab, campus vaccination clinics, and communication with campus stakeholders. “He is an exceptionally conscientious person,” President Cockett said. “We will very much miss him when he retires this summer.”