Suffolk University Names New Provost

Eric (Rick) Oches offers a strong vision for integrating liberal arts and sciences with professional education
Rick Oches stands in front of lush green trees wearing a suit
Eric (Rick) Oches, a higher education leader and scholar who has championed the integration of arts and sciences with professional education, will become Suffolk’s next provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Suffolk University announced that Eric (Rick) Oches, a higher education leader and scholar who has championed the integration of arts and sciences with professional education, will become the University’s next provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. 

Oches will join Suffolk August 1 from Bentley University, where he has served as dean of arts and sciences since 2018. He will succeed Julie Sandell, who is retiring after five years as Suffolk’s provost. Oches served as Bentley’s interim provost in 2022. In that role, he worked collaboratively with faculty and deans across disciplines to help develop new undergraduate and graduate academic programs in response to evolving student and market needs.  

At Bentley, a university that combines business and the arts and sciences, he has worked to develop programs that achieve greater integration between the two areas of study.

“Rick is an engaged, compassionate, and entrepreneurial higher education leader and an accomplished teacher and scholar,” said Suffolk University President Marisa Kelly. “He is a relationship-builder who has collaborated across disciplines and departments to drive and support the development of transdisciplinary programs and curricular innovations that go beyond the teaching of technical skills to include cultural, historical, ethical, and critical analysis competencies that better prepare graduates to address so-called ‘wicked problems’ and complex societal challenges.” 

“The future of higher education lies at the intersection of liberal learning and professional education,” Oches said. “Higher education goes beyond just training graduates for a job, which is a vital but limited view of its full value. It is about developing engaged citizens, innovative leaders, and lifelong learners. It is about preparing graduates for fulfilling lives and careers that go beyond landing their first job, and inspiring them to make a difference in their communities.”  

Oches said he was drawn to Suffolk University by its access and opportunity mission and commitment to inclusive education, as well as its engagement with the city of Boston and emphasis on experiential learning, career readiness, and community engagement.  

“It has struck me that anywhere you go in Massachusetts, you will run into a Suffolk graduate who is working in state or local government, running arts and cultural organizations, or leading in industry, the law, and nonprofit organizations,” Oches said. “Suffolk is playing an important role in driving the economy of the Commonwealth. That vibrancy really attracted me.” 

He added that he is excited to join a comprehensive University with strong undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in the liberal arts and sciences, business, and the law. “Certainly, the faculty and staff commitment to student success is also a really attractive element,” he said.  

At Bentley, Oches has helped faculty and deans develop and update undergraduate and graduate programs in the areas of artificial intelligence; diversity, equity, and inclusion; psychology; health industries; sustainability science; data analytics; creative industries; entrepreneurship; and others. 

He has also worked to support student success, retention, and well-being, as well as the recruitment of a more diverse undergraduate student population.  

Oches’ academic background is in the natural and applied sciences. At Bentley, he has served as professor of earth and environmental sciences, and chaired the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences from 2011 to 2018. His teaching and research interests have focused on Earth’s recent climate history and human and environmental response to past climate changes. Recently, his research has focused on developing students’ transdisciplinary capabilities to address sustainability challenges through the development of innovative curricula that bridge business, liberal arts, and STEM education.  

Prior to Bentley, Oches served as a visiting scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and as associate professor in the Department of Geology and chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of South Florida. He received his Bachelor of Science in Geosciences from Purdue University and his master’s and PhD in geosciences from UMass.   

“I’m looking forward to working with Dr. Oches, an experienced leader whose earnestness, attention to detail, and sensitivity to faculty concerns came through during the interview process,” said Quentin Miller, a professor in Suffolk’s English Department and a co-chair of the Provost Search Committee. “He showed a genuine appreciation for the academic enterprise and the contributions of faculty members, along with a desire to prepare new generations of students and to advance Suffolk’s vital mission.” 

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