Dr. J. Michael Bitzer will serve as Catawba College’s acting provost beginning June 1. President Brien Lewis made that announcement to the campus community on May 20.
Bitzer, an associate professor of politics and history and chair of the department of history and politics at Catawba, joined the faculty in 2002. He will fill a vacancy left by the departure of Dr. W. Richard “Rick” Stephens Jr. who will lead the academic administration at Alfred University.
At Catawba, Bitzer has been active in faculty governance, having chaired the admissions committee and served on the curriculum committee and the assessment committee. In 2010, he spearheaded a committee of faculty that produced “A White Paper on an Institutional Philosophy of Education at Catawba.” This paper set forth the idea of a “liberal education” which unifies a liberal arts education and professional education into one over-arching philosophy.
“Dr. Bitzer has widespread respect from his faculty colleagues at Catawba. His leadership on the White Paper demonstrates his ability to bring diverse faculty perspectives to the table and to build consensus,” Lewis said. “His contributions to various task forces on campus and his work in the public eye providing insights on political issues are indicative that he is a good communicator and a strong advocate for faculty issues. I look forward to working with him in this new capacity.”
Bitzer came to Catawba as a visiting instructor in the political science department and with a passion for Southern politics. A native of South Carolina, he was baptized in his passion in the early 1980s while in high school, landing a job as a page in the Washington, D.C. office of South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond.
He holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Erskine College, a master of arts degree in history from Clemson University, and his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, where he was selected as one of five “Excellence in Teaching” award winners for 2002. Before beginning work on his doctorate, he was a newspaper reporter and a public affairs director at Clemson University.
He was tapped by Catawba President Dr. Robert E. Knott to serve as Interim dean of admissions at the college from 2007 through the end of 2008. During that period, he managed the responsibilities of that position while continuing to teach a full slate of classes in his subject area. For the 2011-2012 academic year, he was the Swink Professor for Excellence in Teaching at Catawba, after a vote of the faculty senate.
He is frequently sought out by local, regional and national media outlets as a commentator on Southern politics and campaigns and elections. His comments have been used by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, NPR, The Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer, The State and television stations in the Charlotte market. He posts observations about regional and national politics in a blog titled, “The Party Line,” for WFAE, the Charlotte NPR affiliate.
Married to wife Andrea, the two are parents of son Andrew.