University prepares to appoint new provost for fall 2021

Written By Jordyn Hronec, Editor-in-Chief

The search for a new university provost, which began when current provost Dr. John Pearson announced his upcoming Summer 2021 retirement, is about to come to an end.

University President Paul Hennigan is now set to make a decision on a new provost with four final candidates to choose from. 

“On my desk right here I have pages of notes from a wide variety of sources regarding the four finalists,” Hennigan said in an interview on Wednesday, Dec. 2 . “And so now the process for me is to make a decision…I hope to make a decision this week. I also do my own reference checking. When I’m hiring senior level people, I do that myself, even though reference checking has been done in order to get to the finalist round.”

The job of a university provost, who is often referred to as the vice president of academic affairs or chief academic officer, is to oversee all activity related to academics at a university. They are widely considered to be second-in-command to the university president, and Hennigan will have the final say in who is selected. Dr. Pearson also serves as the “dean of faculty,” for the university, working to recruit and develop the faculty. 

“I’m not on the provost search, but the reports I’m hearing are that we have wonderful candidates,” Pearson said in an interview on Nov. 9. “I think the university will be in very good hands after I leave, and they are looking for someone who will be very future-focused. So I think you will find that you will have a wonderful provost this time next year.”

Dennis McDermott, the president of the Student Government Association (SGA), served as a representative of the student body on the provost search committee. McDermott said that the search process for a new provost began with the committee creating a profile of what the ideal provost candidate would look like. McDermott also said that representing the student body was his top priority.

“The number one quality, bar none, is, I was looking for a candidate that could represent our diverse student population, so one that was either concentrated in areas of diversity and inclusion or one who represented areas of diversity and inclusion, preferably both,” he said. “And I think at least half of the candidates are both of those, but all of the candidates are very good for diversity and inclusion.”

McDermott said that after the profile was sent out, applications began to come in, and everyone on the search committee read through the applications and ranked their top picks. 

“Obviously I was going to rank people who were more student or diversity centered higher on my list,” McDermott said.

Top-ranking applicants were then interviewed over the course of several weeks, with interviews taking place at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

“I want to stress that I was very involved in that process,” McDermott said. “I want to stress that students got a voice in that process as well. They didn’t hold me back or they didn’t have me there as just an observer or anything like that, I was just on the committee as anyone you’d expect.”

The four finalist candidates then visited campus over Thanksgiving break. And now, it is up to President Hennigan to make the final decision.

“The provost reports to the president,” Hennigan said. “And then the president reports to the Board of Trustees, so the Board of Trustees will make a decision about the next president, but for the provost, the president makes that decision.”

Hennigan is also set to retire as president of the university during the Summer of 2021. McDermott said that he was prepared to now shift his focus and begin another search.

“I can’t think of anyone else probably in recent memory who has had an opportunity like I do or the students do right now to be involved in both committees,” McDermott said. “I pushed hard to get student representation on both of these committees and to see that come to fruition and to see years of work from SGA to have more representation and choosing the staff, president and anyone else further, for the students…it’s really cool that I get to be the one to help with that.”