The Hilltop welcomes Eileen Fung into her new role as Interim Provost amid the departure of Provost Chinyere Oparah. Oparah, who served as provost and vice president of academic affairs since June 2021, announced her exit via email on May 24 and has since been on sabbatical.
Oparah announced her departure after the end of last spring semester, leaving many students, like sophomore English major Kiera McCarthy, unaware of the change in leadership until now. “I didn’t even realize Oparah was leaving until recently, but I do know a lot of people I’ve talked to are very disappointed,” McCarthy said. “She was very well liked. Her leaving is definitely a loss to the community.”
Oparah served as a professor of ethnic studies at Mills College from 1997 to 2017, and as provost and dean of faculty from 2017 until her appointment in 2021 at USF as provost of academic affairs. In her email announcing her departure, she said, “I look forward to spending the coming year on sabbatical, launching the second edition of my co-edited book ‘Birthing Justice,’ and discerning my next spiritual assignment. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to touch the lives of so many students, faculty, librarians, staff and administrators at USF, and in turn to have changed and grown because of what I learned from you all.”
Forrest Cameron, senior politics major and vice president of advocacy for ASUSF senate said, “Provost Oparah is a lovely individual who I wish was around to stay longer.” He called Oparah “a member of this campus who truly cared for students and made it her mission to do as much as humanly possible for us.”
Oparah’s accomplishments as provost included developing and implementing the Integrated Strategic Enrollment Plan, which sparked changes in USF core curriculum to promote equity and inclusivity and lead to the formation of the Student Success, Retention, and Equity Task Force. According to President Paul Fitzgerald, S.J. in his Office of the President announcement regarding Oparah’s exit, she also helped “shape university-wide, mission-driven initiatives,” with Latinx Excellence and Belonging and Indigenous Engagement and Native Student Success among others being cited.
Oparah’s last day as Provost was May 31, and the position has since been occupied by Interim Provost Eileen Fung after accepting Fitzgerald’s invitation to serve on June 1. In a message shared to the community, Fung said, “I accepted his invitation only after careful discernment, wanting to make sure that I can meet USF’s current needs and advance our community.”
She continued, “I look forward to working with Fr. Fitzgerald, colleagues in cabinet, deans, faculty, librarians, and staff across schools and divisions to support all our students with respect, honesty, collaboration, and transparency.”
Kidd Huang, a graduate student studying sports management, is excited to get to know Fung. “I never really got to know the last provost when I was in undergrad, so I hope to learn more about the new one,” she said.
Fung has been an integral part of USF for 25 years. Prior to her appointment as interim provost, she began her involvement at USF in 1997 when she was awarded the James Irvine Dissertation Fellowship. Fung became a professor of English in 1998, and in 2010 she was appointed associate dean of arts and humanities. In 2019 she became senior associate dean, and in 2021 she became interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
In an interview with USF News, Fung spoke of her commitment to USF’s mission. “As an immigrant, a woman, and an Asian American, I am not the typical image of a college dean… I came to USF for its mission in social justice, a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity.”
Cameron said, “I’m excited to work with Dean Fung to help make this a school for every student.”
Fung is also a founder and former associate dean of the Honors College. She previously served as chair of the English department and director of the Asian American Pacific Studies Program.
On the website for the office of the provost, Fung said, “I am committed to supporting a Jesuit liberal arts education that is student centered and globally engaged, innovative and relevant, mission driven, and humanizing — one that seeks justice on our campus, in our city, and in society.”
This change in leadership has caused organizational changes within the University’s staff. Fung has appointed Jeff Paris, former assistant dean and associate dean of arts and humanities, as acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Cathy Cabor, a faculty member from the rhetoric and language department, has been appointed to serve as the acting associate dean of arts and humanities.
When asked what the USF community can expect to see moving forward, University Spokesperson Kellie Samson said, “The USF Community — students, faculty, librarians, and staff — can expect continued alignment with our Jesuit Catholic mission, the advancement of our Strategic Plan, and clear and open communication from both the President and the Provost.”
The Foghorn will continue to report on this change of leadership in the coming months.
This story was updated on September 13th to resolve factual inaccuracies.