Andrew "Andy" Feinstein

Feinstein

Provided by the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education

Andrew "Andy" Feinstein brings the skills he learned in the hospitality industry in higher education.

Feinstein, provost at San Jose State University, sat in on nearly 50 classes his first year there to learn about faculty and students. He considers himself an active listener, and faculty and a student leader agree.

"It certainly comes naturally to me as a hospitality professional. It's amazing how far that will take you," Feinstein said.

He's used his passion for numbers and operations to identify student demand for courses on campus in order to direct resources to those classes.

Lately, he used his service skills in a more direct way.

San Jose has been sweltering in recent weeks with the mercury reaching 107 degrees. Ariadna Manzo was recently sitting through a political science class with 20 or 30 students. The classroom was stuffy, she said, and the air conditioner wasn't getting the job done.

Soon, Manzo, president of the Associated Students, saw Feinstein and another campus official walk into the classroom rolling a cart filled with cold water bottles.

Manzo wasn't sure other students recognized that the provost was one of the people trying to help cool them off. But she said unlike administrators who stay cooped up in their offices and only offer a presence via email, Feinstein shows up.

"It does a lot when you see them around the campus community," Manzo said. "And I feel like Andy does bring that with him."

On the campus of some 35,000 students, Feinstein stands at welcome lines to greet students, she said.

He runs out onto the football field at the start of games, said Shannon Rose Riley, associate vice chair of the Academic Senate. 

"He's really smart. He's a strategist. He builds trust, and then you trust that he's doing the job," Riley said.

***

When Feinstein arrived at San Jose State in 2013, morale was low among faculty, according to two Academic Senate leaders.

"We had very little trust in the administration," said Riley, also department chair of the humanities. "We had been working under very difficult circumstances both in terms of resources and salaries and everything. It was just bad."

In a decade, she said morale was probably at its lowest point. Riley said Feinstein arrived and started truly listening, even when all he probably heard were complaints.

"He never showed frustration. He never showed lack of patience," she said.

Riley said faculty were already feeling budget constraints. Feinstein had to make changes, she said, but he put them on a healthier track both financially and emotionally.

"He has been just so tremendously healing for this campus," Riley said.

Stefan Frazier, chair of the senate, said everyone wondered why Feinstein wanted the job at the time. Feinstein's resume notes he stepped into the job of deputy provost in July 2013 and took on the job of provost in January 2014.

"We had a disastrous president at the time, and he (Feinstein) came in in the middle of it," Frazier said.

He said Feinstein made the campus a more pleasant place, turned around morale, and improved the approach of the administration as well.

"He has helped turn the upper leadership from an arrogant, hands-off group of people to people who do seem to really care about others on campus," Frazier said.

He said Feinstein is approachable and confident — and not afraid to take questions.

***

Feinstein has a doctorate in Man-Environment Relations — he jokes that he holds one of the "few chauvinistic degrees" in the nation — from Pennsylvania State University.

He holds a bachelor's and master's in hotel administration from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and he earned a certificate from Harvard University in 2013 from the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education, according to his resume.

Feinstein held varied jobs outside academia, including ones that combined his love of food, math and technology. He grew interested in food as a child cooking with his mom, he said, and he's worked on a sailboat caring for the vessel and entertaining guests. He also appraised hotels, and launched a software company where he designed websites for the craft food service industry.

Eventually, he pursued a doctorate. He took models used mostly in industrial engineering to optimize airports, for instance, and used them to show restaurant operators how customers and operations interacted in real time.

"How do you know how many tables to have? How many four-tops? How many two-tops? You can actually simulate those things. That was pretty sophisticated stuff back then, and I loved it," Feinstein said.

"It allowed me to take a different field of study and different ideas and merge them into something I thought would be a benefit (to the hospitality industry)."

***

In recent years, Feinstein has used those analytical skills to drive outcomes in higher education. His resume notes he addressed a $36 million structural deficit at San Jose State and a $25 million base cut in Academic Affairs.

Feinstein said he knew the situation was going to be a challenge from the beginning, both the budget and the faculty relationships. On the budget side, he assessed the problematic financial practice he found as "removing the rainy-day funds, and then making it rain."

Students couldn't get into classes because of budget shortfalls, he said.

In response, he put a team together to figure out exactly where student demand would be — just because a student is an engineer doesn't mean she takes all her courses in that school, he said. As a result, he said, the school has been able to put money where students are going.

Riley said the new system is transparent, and faculty know that if they improve enrollment, they can improve their budgets.

"When you have a transparent process and you understand what the resources are and what the goal is, that makes everybody feel a lot less stressed," she said.

The new system also means deans and chairs have more authority over how to spend money, according to Feinstein and Riley.

Said Riley: "As a department chair, I think that's the way it should be."

Somehow, despite the cuts, faculty seem to have more resources, Frazier said: "We're getting more travel money. We're getting more funding for research."

Both he and Riley said they were almost loath to praise him, although they believe he deserves to shine.

"Honestly, I don't want him to go. And so in a certain way, I'd like to find some dirt on him to sink his chances (at UM)," Frazier joked.

***

Manzo, Associated Students president, had particular praise for Feinstein's support for diversity, his ability to work across divisions, and his unique perspective.

Manzo said she serves on many university committees with Feinstein: "Sometimes, I'm the only student there, and it's a room filled with faculty and administrators, and he always brings up a perspective that is probably not being thought of."

For example, she said, one group was appointing faculty members to the student success committee. Manzo said Feinstein brought up the point that the committee needed to reflect diversity itself in order to help different types of students succeed; she said the provost's remarks prevented a homogeneous committee on a diverse campus.

"Now, we have a very diverse committee that's able to provide a lot of different points of views and perspectives," Manzo said.

Feinstein said he's coming from one of the most ethnically and racially diverse campuses in the country. Although UM doesn't have the same ethnic diversity, he said UM is still appealing to him because it has a similar number of students who are first in their family to go to college, and it also has socioeconomic diversity.

"I think that's something that's really attractive," Feinstein said.

And he touts success in that area as well. At San Jose State, he said, the achievement gap for underrepresented minority students went from 17 percent to 11 percent from fall 2015 to fall 2016; this fall's numbers aren't out, but Feinstein noted the long-term goal.

"We're focusing on getting that to zero," he said.

***

In March 2017, the Mercury News reported that the fallout from a sexual harassment case at San Jose State "continues to raise questions about how the school handles allegations."

The media outlet reported that emails showed a deputy district attorney believes school officials tried to obscure facts around the case of a professor accused of repeatedly asking a student to date him. Last month, Inside Higher Ed said the professor had been found guilty but was only put on paid leave after the Mercury News began its investigation.

The Mercury News noted the deputy district attorney alleges school administrators hampered a probe. It also noted the announcement that the professor's superior, a dean, was no longer serving came from Feinstein without explanation.

Feinstein said as provost, he oversees all faculty, and he was among many people named as a defendant in a related case that was dismissed with prejudice. But he said there's still pending litigation, and he cannot comment on personnel matters.

***

A few weeks ago, Feinstein and his wife visited Missoula to get a feel for the town and campus. Feinstein is a body boarder and outdoors person who likes to play disc golf. He's surfed the ocean and rafted rivers, and he'd like to try surfing Brennan's Wave.

"We talked about the academic side of it, but I'm excited also about just living in Missoula," he said.

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