Home Local News UNC Pembroke names new provost, chief of staff

UNC Pembroke names new provost, chief of staff

Dr. Diane T. Prusank (left) Dr. Jess Boersma

UNC Pembroke Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings, M.D., announced appointments to two key leadership positions with the university following extensive national searches. Dr. Diane Prusank will serve as provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Jess Boersma will serve as chief of staff and vice chancellor of Strategic Initiatives.

Dr. Prusank brings more than 30 years of experience in public and private institutions of higher education, including provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Westfield State University. Dr. Boersma has served in several leadership roles at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for nearly two decades, most recently as associate dean for Student Success and Applied Learning.

Chancellor Cummings made the announcement following a special meeting of the Board of Trustees. The trustees voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of the provost and chief of staff search committees.

“After spending many hours speaking with Dr. Prusank, I am pleased to welcome her as our university’s next provost,” Cummings said. “She was well received by the search committee and everyone she interacted with during her campus visit, and I believe she will be a great fit for our university.

“As we continue to develop and explore additional academic offerings, I am confident her background will bring needed experience to advance the university’s vision and impact,” Cummings added.

Dr. Prusank joined Westfield State in 2008. She served as a professor of communication before ascending to roles as dean, chief of staff to the president and provost. In her administrative roles she managed a budget of $35 million, had oversight of a division with more than 300 employees and secured funds for capital projects including a $20 million-dollar grant for a major building renovation. She is recognized as an active teacher-scholar in communication theory and research methods as well as media portrayal of personal relationships.

Previously, she served as program director, dean, and assistant provost at the University of Hartford where she launched the first office for Faculty Technology and Development. While serving as dean of Graduate Studies, she worked with a team of faculty and staff to help establish a new Doctor in Physical Therapy degree program. She will assume the role of provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at UNCP beginning July 17.

“The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is a model regional, public institution with a consequential history and a vibrant future,” Dr. Prusank said.

“There is a profound energy and engagement on campus that reflects an institution building on its history while expanding its program offerings to meet the needs of the students and the region of tomorrow.”

During her campus visit, Prusank witnessed firsthand the commitment of the faculty, staff and administration to the success of the diverse and talented student body.

“I am honored to have been asked to use my leadership skills in support of the institution and the southeast region of North Carolina. I am looking forward to getting to know the faculty, staff and students and working in a collaborative and transparent environment as we move toward implementing the chancellor’s vision.”


Dr. Prusank earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in communication from Illinois State University. She received her Ph.D. in communication from the University of Oklahoma.

Prusank lives with her husband, Dr. Robert Duran, a professor emeritus at the University of Hartford. They have three children, Collin, Hailey and Christopher.

Boersma steps into the role as chief of staff for UNCP beginning June 19 and said he is thrilled to join an institution that prides itself on a student-first mentality.

“I think it goes without saying, I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the mission of this great university,” Boersma said. “It has come clear to me after what I’ve studied about the university and from my talks with Chancellor Cummings that UNCP is all about the students. The chief of staff role is a crucial role and one that is helping the university fulfill its mission to advance and transform students’ lives and provide greater career opportunities for them.”

Cummings said he is pleased with the search committee’s recommendation.

“Dr. Boersma’s strong academic background combined with his knowledge of the UNC System will be a great addition to our university and specifically to the Office of the Chancellor. I look forward to the insight and change he will bring to both to advance UNCP in meaningful ways.”

At UNCW, Boersma is credited with launching the first Academic Resource Center and executing several process improvement initiatives at the university level. He co-founded the Support for Undergraduate Research & Creativity Awards and the First-Year Research Experience Program, which awards $150,000 per year to faculty and students.

Boersma also serves as associate director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Identity Sciences (I3S). Prior to his academic appointments, he participated in relief missions in Central and South America as a Special Forces operator. Additionally, he served as an international observer for the Carter Center and briefed former President Jimmy Carter.

Boersma’s goal is to leverage his diverse experience to harness the strengths and talents of campus leadership to create positive and collective impact on UNCP and the region it serves. An associate professor in Spanish, he possesses extensive experience in language and sociocultural training and the design of high-impact experiences that drive student success.

“I look forward to the opportunity to advance what has already been a great mission at UNCP,” Boersma said. “This university is well poised to take the next leap serving the citizens and residents of southeastern North Carolina, in particular.”

A native of Waupun, Wisconsin, he and his wife, Caroline, have two children, Leo and Amelie.

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