Provost candidate David Francko emphasizes need for collaboration

Chandler Wright

Much like Walt Disney, who was known for walking around his amusement parks and talking to staff and patrons, David Francko also likes to take daily walks to stay abreast of everything going on at The University of Alabama.

“I like to take a mid-morning walk and one in the afternoon just to clear my head,” Francko, the current dean of the graduate school and candidate for the next University provost, said. “So, I like to walk different parts of campus, and I have not intentionally used those walks to snoop on anybody, but on the course of walking through the business department or art and sciences, I pick up some things about what’s going on.”

In a public interview Tuesday, Francko addressed questions from audience members, including selection committee members, faculty and students. He emphasized the need for students and faculty to work together towards a better University.

“We can come up with all the plans that we want to. We can envision all the things that we’d like to,” Francko said. “If student and faculty together don’t move forward and embrace those ideas, we will not make any progress. [Students are] not our customers; they’re our junior colleagues in the educational enterprise.”

Jonathan Handy, a graduate student in finance, said he has worked with the dean as the president of the Graduate Student Assembly.

“Probably the most common is simply meeting with him in his office petitioning him about graduate student needs and suggesting ways to improve graduate student life,” Handy said. “My very first observation of Dr. Francko is that even as a dean he has a very open door policy – he is approachable, candid, honest and very sincere.”

Francko spoke about recruitment and scholarship throughout his interview, citing recent student population growth and tuition increases.

“We have to be able to recruit high quality students who can pay for their education or get national merit scholarships and that. Then we have to be able to fund those really good first generation college students who don’t have the wherewithal to pay that raised tuition,” Francko said. “If you give me a buck, and you only give me one buck, I’m going to put it towards scholarships.”

Handy confirmed Francko’s passion for the Capstone and its students.

“Francko is someone who fits into the system and has clearly thrived within The University of Alabama, but I think he has enough gumption and moxy in him that he will bring a bit more balance back to the University and be the voice of some much-needed change,” Handy said. “He clearly supports the advancement of academia and scholarship, and as provost I believe he would be able to continue to make UA a better university.”

Although the University has seen rapid growth in recent years, Francko said there may be room to continue that.

“I’m not sure what the carry capacity of the University is right now, and I’m not sure if we’ll ever all agree on whether or not we are wildly oscillating, but I can tell you that I hope we haven’t reached that capacity,” Francko said. “What I hope is that if you and I are having coffee three years from now, whatever our enrollment is, we have a better product.”

Francko said, if he is chosen as provost, he will be sure to continue those daily “Walks in the Park.”

“I think the provost needs to remain open and available,” he said.