The search for a new provost

Denny Patterson, Senior Editor

Last year, Millikin went through a transition period where many administrators, faculty and staff either resigned or retired from their positions. These figures include Vice President of Enrollment Rich Dunsworth, Registrar Walt Wessel and the institution’s fourteenth president, Dr. Harold Jeffcoat.

Although the majority of the vacancies have been filled, one position currently remains untouched – vice president of academic affairs. This is because the initial plan was to establish a new president before conducting a search. Now that Dr. Patrick White has been elected to the presidency, the search is about to begin.

Saundra Tracy, a hiring consultant from the Association of Governing Boards (AGB), will be on campus Thursday to meet with White, faculty, the search committee and students.

“Saundra is going to help write our description of what we need in a chief academic officer,” White said. “More importantly, she will be in a situation where she’ll have to pitch the idea of Millikin to various candidates. She will be calling people up and saying there’s a real good opportunity here at Millikin and they should apply. We’re not just waiting for applicants to come to us, but we are reaching out them to them as well.”

The search committee will be made up of faculty members from each college and various administrators including English professor Dr. Michael O’Conner, theatre professor Dr. Alex Miller, Dean of Student Development Raphaella Prange and sophomore Jared Rixstine who serves as the Student Senate Vice President of Academic Affairs.

“I am super excited to be on the committee and hope to use my position as Student Vice President of Academic Affairs to make sure the students have a say in who the next academic overseer should be,” Rixstine said.

The committee will be co-chaired by Dean of the College of Professional Studies Deb Slayton and another member who will be named later this week.

In addition, it has been decided to change the position’s title from vice president of academic affairs to provost.

“Some faculty thought it would be good to have the position called provost,” White said. “I first resisted because the provost title is usually associated with much larger universities, but some faculty wanted the title changed. The provost is really the chief operating officer while the president is the chief executive officer. [The] provost does a lot of work on campus while the president is out raising money. It’s a good name for a chief academic officer.”

White would like to have a provost who thinks beyond academic life and is an expert in understanding and leading faculty as well as an entire university.

“Every vice president, cabinet member, faculty member, etc. needs to recognize the central role of academic life here at Millikin,” he said. “Understand the complexity of learning inside and outside of the classroom.”

In regards to specific qualifications, White and the search committee is hoping to find someone who will be able to respect faculty and student centered learning, be excited about the performance learning concept and be a dedicated academic leader who is able to help faculty imagine news ways of conceiving how to improve teaching. White would also like the provost to have some experience with financial matters who has faced financial challenges in leadership roles in the past.

White is currently performing both roles as president and provost and the new addition will not only help him, but the institution as well.

“I would hope we have a leader who will help us rethink how we do our business and how do it more efficiently,” he said.

The overall goal is to have a decision made by the first week of April, with the person fully on board by July 1. Posts about the position are planned to go out next month.