Faculty look for communication skills in new provost

Carrie Blazina

Qualifications for the new provost, according to the job application:

• a passion for research, teaching and academic excellence

• a clear vision based on strongly held academic principles

• a collegial and respectful leadership style

• an unquestioned commitment to communication, participatory decision making and shared governance

• the ability to execute a plan effectively, systematically and collaboratively

• an energetic and action-oriented disposition

• an appreciation of a large, multi-campus institution

• an unyielding commitment to diversity

• an appreciation of the multitude of disciplines represented at Kent State

• an appreciation of the uniqueness of each of the university’s campuses

• a capacity to inspire others and instill pride in all academic stakeholders of the university

• a willingness to take bold action and to make difficult decisions

• an understanding of responsibility-centered budgeting

• a working knowledge of information technology and its strategic role in higher education

The provost finalists have been announced, but the debate over who is right for the job and what expectations the new provost must fulfill has just begun.

The four finalists are David Francko, who visited the university Monday, Todd Diacon, Bernard Mair and Timothy Moerland, who will hold his forums Friday.

Provost Robert Frank announced in July he would step down and seek the presidency at several universities, and the university began forming the search committee immediately after his announcement, said Vanessa Earp, associate professor at the University Library and member of the committee.

President Lester Lefton picked people for the search committee from a list of recommendations from Faculty Senate, which makes decisions on curriculum, degree programs and various academic matters at Kent State.

Frank’s departure has some of the faculty wondering how the new provost will work with them in comparison to Frank.

Associate music professor Ted Rounds said though he can only judge Frank based on his relationship with the School of Music, he hopes the new provost will work as well with the school as Frank did.

“I really got the sense that he was paying attention to what it was we were all going to do,” Rounds said. “ … He wanted to hear what we had to say when he’d ask a question.”

Earp said 50 to 60 people applied to replace Frank, and the group narrowed the number of candidates through interviews with the candidates and their references down to the four who now remain.

“By the time they come to campus, the candidates have gone through multiple stages of being vetted and revisited and discussed,” Earp said.

Daniel Mahony, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services and chair of the search committee, said the candidates all had to have exceptional people skills and a leadership background.

“With the provost you’re looking for someone who has administrative experience, based on having some high-level administrative roles,” Mahony said. The committee also looks for “the type of person (whose) interaction style and personal skills would be good for the position,” he said.

Upcoming forums for provost candidates:

Timothy Moerland, Jan. 26-27

Graduate Students, Jan. 26, 2:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Urban Conference Room, Library

Faculty and Staff, Jan. 26, 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Moulton Hall Ballroom.

Undergraduate Students, Jan. 27, 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Fab Fourth, Library

Bernard Mair, Jan. 30-31

Graduate Students, Jan. 30, 2:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Urban Conference Room, Library

Faculty and Staff, Jan. 30, 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Moulton Hall Ballroom

Undergraduate Students, Jan. 31, 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Fab Fourth, Library

Todd Diacon, Feb. 1-2

Graduate Students, Feb. 1, 2:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Urban Conference Room, Library

Faculty and Staff, Feb. 1, 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Moulton Hall Ballroom.

Undergraduate Students, Feb. 2, 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Fab Fourth, Library

Rounds said the faculty has very little interaction with anyone as high up as the provost, but said he hopes for a provost who is a good communicator and works well with academic disciplines outside of the provost’s background.

He said he also hopes the new provost does not feel the need to make sweeping changes.

“Often a provost feels that they have to come in and immediately make their worth known by completely overhauling a system that didn’t need fixing,” Rounds said. He said that is unnecessary and creates more work for everyone involved.

Monday’s open forum for undergraduate students with Francko was well-attended, Earp said, and that matters because the provost’s work affects both students and faculty.

“Students really should care about the provost because they help to set the academic agenda for the university,” Earp said, and because the provost makes decisions about Kent Core courses, diversity requirements, hiring of faculty and any new academic programs the university wants to implement.

The search committee will meet with the candidates during their visits, and based on those interviews they will meet once more to list the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, Earp said. They cannot make recommendations or rank the candidates, but Lefton will consider their input when making his final decision.

Rounds said he thinks the process of choosing a new provost is tough. Despite looking thoroughly through the candidates’ background and qualifications, he said no one can tell how the candidates are going to do in the job until they try it.

“People will say whatever they have to say (in an interview) to create the impression that they know what they’re doing,” Rounds said. “You just don’t know until they’re here and they do what they do.”

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].