Sunday, May 19, 2013

New President Interview -- Part 19 Search for a Provost

New President Interview -- Part 19

Search for a Provost*
Q: I heard that the College Provost is leaving his position at the end of the semester. He held the position for only two academic years. First what is the role and job description of a provost? Second, what happened to make him leave?

A: Dr. RP served the College with distinction and I was sorry to hear that he wanted to leave. He and I discussed the situation several times over the past few months. When the announcement was made, he asked us not to state a reason. He left for personal reasons that had nothing to do with his job performance. I am sad that he left because I felt we built a very close working agreement and we were a good team. Leaving at the end of the semester, a few days after graduation was the best timing for this change. That gives the College the three summer months to find a permanent replacement.

While two years in a provost position is not unusual, we hoped when he was appointed that he would be here for longer time. We hope for the next provost will be able to make a commitment to the long term success of the College. Some people have seen the provost position as a stepping stone to a bigger or better position while others have viewed the position as capstone on their career. The sustained growth of the College requires a commitment to the academic community, the students, and the larger community. We will be looking for someone with a connection to our city, familiar with our position in the community and is willing to make a long term commitment. We don’t want someone for a short tenure on the way to something else. We will be looking for someone who has strong local connections and perhaps we will find an internal candidate who is already familiar with our way of doing business. To accomplish this we will need to rethink our corporate culture and how we can make our College attractive to the new provost and ourselves. I have seen other universities make an almost advertising brochure about their university and community in the hope of attracting a large pool of candidates. We don’t intend to make such a document.

The Provost is responsible for all aspects of the academic program that includes being the leader who encourages and promotes the academic mission. The job includes setting goals and seeing them fulfilled with the faculty, the curriculum, and the academic programs. S/he in partnership with president and other stakeholders sets the priorities and manages the resources in a manner that serves the best interests of the College, the students, the staff and faculty. We will also be doing a self evaluation to see if there are ways to improve our processes so that the new provost can concentrate on the academic program and not one putting out administrative fires.

The Provost hires the academic deans and department heads and makes the final recommendations to the Board for the hiring, promotion, and granting of tenure for all faculty. S/he ensures that the faculty follows the core educational and ethical values as well as following all the relevant local, state, and federal laws and regulations concerning the academic programs and colleges. The Provost takes a lead role in dealing with the accrediting agencies and makes sure that everyone does their role in the accreditation process.

Setting priorities to maintain and improve academic excellence, student success, and readiness for a career or the next education step are of high importance. Other areas include creating a collaborative environment that encourages innovation in systems, curriculum, and entrepreneurship. Diversity in all its aspects is import because no one has a monopoly on the truth or is omniscient. The provost encourages the intellectual growth and diversity in the academic environment. A spirit of inclusiveness enlivens the College and the surrounding community. The provost has the prime leadership role in creating this kind of excellence and encouraging the others in the College to be a member of team and at the same time not afraid to take another path for the common good. The provost is the spokesman for academic priorities with the rest of the executive team that includes the vice-presidents.

Q: What are the qualities that a provost should have?

A: Some of the qualities of a provost are the same as any senior campus leader. That includes superior communications abilities, open and collaborative demeanor, ability to form teams, encourage collaboration, have excellent record of scholarship, commitment to shared governance, ability to see the big picture, and in the words of my mother have “sechel” (Translates as “common sense,” but the connotations of the original expression are much stronger than the English translation.)

We don’t have any hard and fast rules for academic preparation because the provost can come from several tracks. One track is the academic that is a person who has superior teaching skills, research and academic skills and who has previously served in an administrative capacity. The other track is a professional administrator who has the skills to manage people and processes. Unfortunately the later is frowned upon by senior faculty because the provost will be making decisions on granting tenure. Faculty member do not like someone with that power to have history of receiving tenure. Personally I would like someone with a least a few courses in higher education administration even if they don’t hold that degree. I don’t want a politician type person, because s/he will never understand the needs of the curriculum and not be able to act as a mentor to faculty. The dream person will have both academic and administrative credentials and be able to talk to the full range of people we have on campus.

Q: Thank you very much.

*Part nineteen of an imaginary interview with the president of the College. Note this is just for your information and edification. Any connection to a real college president is strictly coincidental.

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