Provost search continues, job description changes

The search for Gannon University’s new provost and vice president of academic affairs has been ongoing since the fall semester, and even though the search process is continuing, the search committee believes its course of action is on track and on time, according to Bill Edmondson, vice president of enrollment and one of the co-chairs of the provost search committee.

Edmondson said the committee ran a complete search in the fall. The pool was narrowed from between 60 and 80 applicants to four applicants, who came to campus. Dr. Taylor decided to not go with any of those four candidates and asked the committee to keep looking.  Edmondson said the committee supported Taylor’s views.

As the interview process will continue into next month, the job description of the provost position has dropped student development and athletics from the provost’s duties, Taylor said.

Taylor said the change was a result of the consensus between himself and the search committee that the provost position should have a clearer focus on academics.

“We’re ensuring the quality of the curriculum and the quality of the programs,” Taylor said.

“We’re working on enhancing what goes on in the classroom and connecting what goes on in the classroom with what’s outside of the classroom.”

The “student development” aspect of the position included everything from student living, student organizations, the International Student Office and commuter services, and, according to Taylor, the amount of work the provost was responsible for was too much for one individual to handle effectively.

“When you’ve got a very broad scope of responsibility, it’s difficult to focus on any one piece of that,” Taylor said, “because there are so many pieces and parts that need to be held together.

“The position itself has been refined, but not because there is a problem. We’re just trying to restructure the administrative responsibilities of the vice presidents and determine what the best structure and the best allocation of people’s time and energy would be.”

Taylor said that for now, the provost search committee will continue to review applications for the position and most likely begin narrowing its selections by March.

The semifinalist candidates will then be chosen and interviewed at a neutral site off campus.

After another cut, the finalists will spend a full day on campus being interviewed, sometime around the beginning of April. Taylor said he’ll meet with each candidate for an hour, review the search committee’s recommendations and then make his decision.

“The plan is before the end of the semester to have identified who the next provost is going to be,” he said.

Although Taylor isn’t on the search committee, he said that he and the committee members are on the same page during the interviews.

“It is my job to make the final decision, so therefore I want to be involved in the interview process,” Taylor said.

According to Taylor, the ideal provost and vice president of academic affairs would have the knowledge, skills and experience at hand to perform the position’s duties effectively, and has an established academic background.

“Primarily what we’re looking for is a leader,” Taylor said.

“We’re looking for someone that can lead academic affairs, lead the deans and the provost council, lead the faculty in developing and delivering high-quality academic programs and a high-quality learning experience for the students.”

Elizabeth Cochran, a freshman biology secondary education major, said the ideal provost would understand all of the disciplines under his or her responsibility, as well as be friendly with everyone on campus.

“I guess a good candidate would be somebody who related well to students,” Cochran said.

Rick Prokop, assistant professor of marketing and co-chair of the provost search committee, said that while the finalists chosen in the fall semester were highly qualified for the provost position, the search committee will also examine the unique intangibles each candidate possesses.

“This time around, we still want to look at the qualifications, but we want to look at fit and commitment,” Prokop said.

“It’s good that the person is qualified to do the job, but would we be comfortable with this individual, and do we believe they fit Gannon’s culture?

“We’re also looking at if this person will be committed to Gannon in the short term, but also be committed to the mission, the strategic plan and where Gannon wants to be in the future.”

Taylor said the newly hired provost must be prepared to adapt to the changes that are always around the corner in a university setting.

“We’re looking for somebody that is intellectual, creative, a good a manager as well as a leader, someone who can help create a vision going forward, but also somebody that understands and cares about people and has the skills of trying to deal with flexibility and change and all those things that come in an evolving organization.”

Samir Bhandutia, a junior pre-med biology major, said the next provost should have a vision for the university’s next step, be willing to adapt to the changes on campus as well as continue to integrate different cultures by keeping the international student community in mind.

“The provost should have good, open communication with the student body and faculty and be open to listening to feedback,” Bhandutia said.

Taylor also said that the provost candidates should be aware of the importance of the university’s Catholic mission.

“The need is for them to understand what the Catholic tradition is, what our Catholic identity is all about, what the Catholic intellectual tradition is all about, and not only support it and accept it, but to actually promote it,” Taylor said.

“As well as help the faculty and staff infuse those things into the curriculum.”

Taylor said that the current status of the provost search, coupled with the interview process happening in the dean’s office of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, may make it appear that the university is rapidly changing.

“We’ve got people here that are helping the organization move forward, helping the university serve the students, and they’ll continue to do that,” Taylor said.

“We all understand the situation is a bit fluid right now.

“We’ll see how these searches play out and then go from there.

But happily, people are doing their thing and coping with ambiguity.”

Taylor said that while in his tenure as provost he brought some impactful skills to the position, he’s not looking for his twin to take up his former mantle.

“I’m looking for someone who can fulfill the role of provost for Gannon, not for Keith Taylor,” he said.

“Yes, this person is going to work very closely with me, so it’s somebody that I need to have confidence in.

“But I’m not looking for me.

“There’s already one of me, we don’t need more.”

Taylor said he has already accepted that his successor will most likely perform his former job differently from the way he did.

“I’m trying to bring in another person with an independent brain, with their own entrepreneurial spirit, their own approach,” Taylor said.

“Now that approach and that spirit need to be in line with the university mission, they need to be in line with the traditions of the university of why Gannon is here and what we’re trying to accomplish.

“So we all need to be on the same page, but we all don’t have to say it the same way or approach it exactly the same way.”

DAN KUBACKI

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