Meet Kent State’s provost candidates

Carrie Blazina

Four people are left in the running to be Kent State’s new provost, the search committee announced Thursday, and two of the finalists have connections to the university.

The four finalists are David Francko, University of Alabama; Todd Diacon, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Bernard Mair, University of Florida; and Kent State’s own Timothy Moerland.

At their respective universities, Francko is an associate provost and the dean of the graduate school, Diacon is a deputy chancellor, Mair is the associate provost for undergraduate affairs and Moerland is the dean of College of Arts and Sciences.

Francko will visit Kent State Jan. 23 and Jan. 24, while Moerland’s events will be Jan. 26 and 27. Mair will visit Jan. 30 and 31, and Diacon will be here Feb. 1 and 2. 

Daniel Mahony, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services and chair of the provost search committee, said the candidates were all chosen for “having the background, experience and expertise as a scholar and faculty member that we were looking for.”

“I am thrilled and honored to be named a finalist for this position,” Francko wrote in an email. “As KSU alumni, my wife Diana and I were profoundly shaped by (the university’s) caring, dedicated faculty, staff, and administrators … and it would be wonderful to have the opportunity to come back ‘home’ and help facilitate Kent State’s mentorship of a new generation of teacher-scholars and student-scholars.”

Francko’s resume, according to the Kent State website, shows he has undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology from Kent State and a Ph.D in botany from Michigan State, the latter of which he taught at Oklahoma State and Miami University. He has experience as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at both schools, and he has been at Alabama since 2006 — in his current position since 2009.

Francko said he would “bring a strong record of transformative, collaborative, innovative and people-centered leadership and service to the KSU system.”

Diacon wrote he is “thrilled to be a finalist” at a school with “a great reputation as a well-administered and progressive university that successfully educates its students to be lifelong learners.”

According to Diacon’s resume, he has a B.A. in history from Kansas’ Southwestern College and graduate and doctoral degrees in Latin American history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He taught history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and was a tenured professor in the subject at the University of Tennessee, where he worked in various positions until 2010 when he left for UMass Amherst.

Diacon said he would bring to Kent State “a deep and broad administrative and scholarly experience … (and) a straightforward, transparent and cooperative style of leadership.”

“It is indeed an honor to be considered for this leadership role,” Moerland wrote in an email, and he said he “would welcome the opportunity to serve and lead KSU in the capacity of provost.”

While Kent State students may know Moerland in his current position, which he has held since 2008, his resume shows he came to Kent State after years at Florida State as a biological sciences professor and chair in that department. He has a degree in biological science from Michigan State and graduate and doctoral degrees in zoology from the University of Maine.

“As Provost, I would bring familiarity with the challenges that higher education faces,” Moerland wrote. “I have leadership experience at other institutions, and I’m intimately familiar with the opportunities and challenges here at Kent State … In a word, I’ve come to love this place.”

Mair said he is “very excited at the real prospect of being chosen for such an important position,” but said he is also aware of the challenges of running a large, research-intensive university. 

According to his resume, Mair has undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of the West Indies and a doctoral degree from McGill University, all in mathematics. 

He has held positions teaching mathematics at Penn State, Texas Tech, Dartmouth, Emory University and North Carolina State, and he has held his current position at the University of Florida since 2009.

“I believe my broad research, teaching and administrative experiences at several universities have provided me with the background to appreciate all aspects of the Kent State system,” Mair wrote. He said he is interested in “developing systems for improving graduation rates, faculty productivity and reward structure, the research environment and in particular, interdisciplinary research activities.”

During their visits, the candidates will hold open forums with students, faculty and staff.

Mahony said the open forums will be a chance for “pretty much everybody in the university community” to participate in an “informal, open question-and-answer event.”

While the candidates do visit campus to meet the students, Mahony said they will also meet privately with smaller groups and individuals like President Lester Lefton, his cabinet and the deans, directors and chairs of the university’s colleges and schools.

Mahony said he hopes people take advantage of the online contact forms and live streamings of the forums.

“What we hope to get from people is as much feedback as possible during the process,” Mahony said.

Lefton is expected to choose a new provost by the end of February. The candidate Lefton chooses will take the place of departing Provost Robert Frank, who is leaving after this semester for the president’s position at the University of New Mexico.

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].