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Provost Search Committee gathers input
February 27, 2012Tweet
As the process moves forward to find a provost, members of the Provost Search Committee held an open session to gather input from the campus community about the qualities it would like to have in a provost – and about the issues a provost should address.
At the Feb. 23 open session, attended by a majority of Search Committee members, co-chair Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, said the timeline is ambitious. The search will remain confidential until finalists for the position visit campus. Rose said the committee isn’t shooting for a particular number of finalists at this point, but expects the visits will take place before the end of the semester.
After that, the committee will forward recommendations to President Harvey Stenger, who will make the final decision.
“The point of this meeting is for all of us to have a chance to listen to you in terms of your thoughts about the position and what you need,” Rose said. “The president is looking for someone who balances him, who is not a clone, but someone who will provide some contrast and additional skills.”
The need for balance was a theme for many who spoke – balance between teaching and research, between full-time faculty and adjuncts, and also across disciplines from the liberal arts to the professional schools. Others mentioned a need for strong collaborative skills at all levels, the ability to listen and communicate well, and the ability to understanding the campus culture as important.
In response to a question about whether President Stenger has a particular academic path he wants to chart, Susan Strehle, distinguished service professor and co-chair of the Search Committee, said she expects that he “would hope for a provost with both vision, ideas and an openness to listening.”
Don Loewen, vice provost for undergraduate education, said he would like to see an academic leader “who is aware of how things have been done and of how they may have to change in terms of the academic structure of the institution. There should be a willingness to think about new ways of doing things in the future in collaboration with the faculty.”
Valerie Hampton, director of Affirmative Action, asked the committee how it would determine, measure and assess the candidates’ attributes. “How will you flesh it out at the interview?” she asked. “The point is that you bring them here based on a résumé, so what kinds of questions are we going to ask that get at their intellectual virtues to see if they’re a good fit?”
Hampton suggested presenting a circumstance and asking the candidate how he/she would address it. “Come up with some of those scenarios that are issues on the horizon for us,” she said. “And not just purely academic, some of it is administrative and you have to juggle lot of personalities. For example, say, ‘Here’s your inbox, what are your priorities?’”
Rose also reminded the audience that there will be open sessions when the campus can also ask those tough questions of candidates.
“One of the most valuable things I’ve seen from Harvey [Stenger] is his willingness to listen,” said Fernando Guzman, professor and chair of mathematical sciences. “I would like to see a provost who is just like him in that; one who will pay attention to what faculty have to say.”
Marty Wygmans, project director for TRIO Programs and Veterans Services, said the University also needs seasoned faculty to teach as well as conduct research. “We should look at each area, but the provost needs to understand how those interdepartmental and interdivisional workings occur and balance that,” she said.
Wygmans also hopes for more collaboration between academic and student affairs. “We want to strengthen and grow and push for more integration,” she said. “We have a good start on that but we need a provost who understands that a student is not just an academic entity.”
An understanding of what diversity means to the campus and how that plays into students’ academic and social lives is also key, said Rodger Summers, special assistant to the provost.
“I would encourage the Search Committee to consider having candidates meet with faculty masters or someone in the residential areas for insight on what goes on outside of classrooms,” he said.
Sara Maximiek, associate librarian, brought up the changing demographics and lifestyles of students. “One thing we notice that student support services handles well but academics doesn’t, is that the student composition is rapidly changing,” she said. Students becoming more and more heavily reliant on services like night classes; we need to adjust because they have children, jobs and other factors to juggle. “We can’t be 9-5 any longer and what does that mean for the University?”
Les Lander, graduate director of computer science, raised the topic of bureaucracy. “Should we be looking for someone familiar with the system and schools our size?” he asked. Rose said it’s impossible to transfer everything, but it would be good to learn about their experience navigating a complicated bureaucracy.
Loewen continued with that thread, noting that “the relationship between our aspirations and the broader, and not always corresponding, ambitions of the [SUNY] system” will require negotiation. “How will we negotiate a somewhat ambiguous line of where we want to be and the push toward where collaboration might lead us?”
Two additional items the provost should understand according to those present: how to use technology to teach in the future, and ensuring that the new provost has a full appreciation for the relatively short resources we have.
Anyone can submit names to the Search Committee and they will be forwarded to the search consultant. Nominees will be contacted by the consultant, and if they want to be considered for the position, they will be part of the pool that is screened. Send comments and suggestions to Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org or Susan Strehle at email@example.com.
For information about the search, and the provost position statement, visit http://www.binghamton.edu/provost-search/.