University’s search for a provost enters final stretch

Since August 2005, when UAA lost its last provost, an interim provost has been filling in and the search for a permanent replacement has been underway. The search is now nearing an end.

But some students, however, may be left wondering what, exactly, a provost is and what having a new provost means to them.

Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies Douglas Causey discussed what a provost does.

“A provost is the chief academic administrator,” he said. “They approve materials, faculty and standards.”

Causey also equated the position to that of vice chancellor.

UAA’s last provost, Ted Kassier, left in August to serve in the University of Alaska statewide system as senior associate vice president for academic affairs. Since Kassier’s departure, Chancellor Elaine Maimon appointed Jan Gehler as interim provost. She has been serving since August 15.

To find a new provost, a search committee was formed, which consists of faculty members and a student representative.

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“The provost is a representative of the institution,” said biology professor Kim Peterson, the search committee chair.

Peterson said the provost usually handles faculty issues such as tenure promotions. The various deans also answer to the provost, although at UAA, Peterson said that it is more of a committee process. “Decisions are made under the leadership of the provost,” he said.

The provost also has access to discretionary funds that can be spent for various needs within the university.

“Spending powers are probably not as great here as some other institutions,” Peterson said.

He then said the cutback in discretionary spending was a result of several things, including changes in the administration. Peterson explained that the changes in the discretionary funding were part of a budget model that Maimon was more comfortable with.

Causey touched on the process that has gone into looking for a new provost and what is yet to come. The position was advertised nationally, which resulted in about 58 applications. The 58 applicants were narrowed down to 12, which were interviewed in Chicago. After that, five final candidates were chosen. From those five a new provost will be chosen by the chancellor, with a recommendation from a search committee and input from UAA students.

David Brown, a senior at UAA, was not aware that there is a search for a provost nor did he know what exactly a provost does.

“If no one knows much about it, maybe it’s not that important,” he joked.

Brown acknowledged that, considering the responsibilities a provost holds, he could see the importance of the position.

“It’s one of the most important jobs on campus,” Linda Lazzell, vice chancellor for student affairs, said.

Three of the five candidates have already appeared on campus, giving lectures open to the public. The final two will be doing the same. The lectures are open to students and feedback is strongly encouraged.

Causey said that students have a chance to fill out evaluation forms, which are available at UAA’s Web site, on the candidates. Student feedback on the candidates will be taken into consideration and is important to the process.

“It’s like voting; you can’t complain if you don’t participate,” Causey said.

USUAA president Anthony Rivas, a member of the provost search committee, also emphasized the importance of the student voice in the process.

“The fact that there is a student on the search committee shows that UAA wants students to be involved,” he said. “The students should care; the provost is the academic leader.”

Rivas joined the search committee in September 2005, as it reviewed applications and narrowed the field to 12. It has been a long process and Rivas said that it was a good field of applicants.

“These people are all intelligent and well qualified,” Rivas said. “One person sent in a 60-page resume.”

The applicants hold Ph.D.’s, and some have 20 years or more of experience, he said.

Rivas also said that, while the chancellor gives the final decision on who will be provost, input from the search committee and student feedback will weigh into that decision.

“If students want a more progressive provost-thus more progressive programs-they need to voice that,” he said.

Lazzell said the point of the candidate lectures and open forums is to give students a chance to listen to the candidates’ vision for the future of higher education and evaluate them.

“Students are the constituents; they are the ones being served,” Lazzell said.

Provost candidate Kathleen Rountree presented an open forum Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 9:30 a.m. in Administration Building Room 204. Rountree is currently serving as associate provost for undergraduate education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The last candidate will be visiting campus Feb. 27 and 28, giving a lecture on the 27th and presenting an open forum the 28th.

More information about the candidates is available at www.uaa.alaska.edu/provostsearch.