Harper said it is important that OU continues its unique role as the state’s flagship university.
“We help the university connect with Oklahoma, and playing a leadership role in the state is vitally important to our mission,” he said.
Even though Harper has only served as interim senior vice president and provost for a few weeks, he said he is ready for the challenges he will face.
“It’s a big job. There’s a lot to learn. An organization like OU is such a big institution that understanding the big picture, all the big pieces and the way they interact is key to this role,” he said.
Mergler said if she were to give more advice to Harper, she would tell him to be himself, appreciate the university and communicate.
“That’s what you need to do in this job, and to urge them forward. It’s a changing world in higher education. There are different ways to go about doing things,” Mergler said. “To help the Norman campus, you always keep that in mind — that you can’t keep your head in the sand; that you have to look around and think about different ways of doing things in a way that doesn’t make people panic and keeps them enthused, particularly with technology and in terms of new disciplines that may be emerging or new ways for funding.
“(Higher education) has changed more the last couple years than it had in my first decade. It’s rapid. He’ll lead and build the next generation of leaders who are passionate about the university. He’s going to be fabulous.”
Helping others meet their own challenges is the most rewarding part of his new role, Harper said.
“I love the ability to make a positive difference. I love creating an environment where other people can succeed. So seeing our students succeed and our faculty succeed is the most gratifying part of a job like this,” he said.