WCU begins process of searching for its next provost

As Western Carolina University begins the 2011 fall term, the search for a new provost begins as well.

Beth Tyson Lofquist has filled the position of interim provost since July 11, a vacancy created by the departure of former provost Kyle R. Carter, who assumed the position of chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke on July 1, 2010. Between July 1, 2010 and July 11, Dr. Linda Seestedt-Stanford, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, served as interim provost for the university. She has now returned to her former position as dean.

A 16-member search committee has been tasked with finding the next provost for WCU. The committee, chaired by Richard Starnes, head of the Department of History, recently held open forums to discuss the provost selection process, as well as to hear input from the campus community on the selection process and qualities that any future provost should possess.

The forums were held on Sept. 14 and 15 at the A.K. Hinds University Center Theatre. Among the major tasks facing the next provost is hiring for several vacant dean and department head positions, which are currently being filled on an interim basis.

“This is arguably the most important thing that we will do as a university this year,” Starnes said. “We need to be very much focused on finding the very best provost we can.”

During the forums, Starnes presented the hiring timeline. An ad will be published in The Chronicle of Higher Education the first week of October. Review of applicants will begin on or about Nov. 15. After this period, short interviews will conducted, likely via Skype or another form of telecommuting. The top applicants for the position will then be invited to visit campus in the spring, and the committee will submit an unranked list of candidates to the chancellor for consideration.

Starnes said that this timeline is “aggressive, but reasonable.”

During the public forum on Sept. 15, Starnes told the audience that the chancellor wants a provost who will become “a true partner” in the educational process at WCU.

Several faculty members attended the forums to discuss the challenges facing the future provost. Among their concerns was that the new provost be sensitive to the current economic climate at the university, noting that in difficult economic times, budget transparency for the provost was of utmost importance.

Also discussed was the need for the new provost to have classroom experience. Faculty present felt that an applicant who has taught in a college classroom will have a keener understanding of the workload placed on professors and faculty.

Dr. Mimi Fenton, professor of English, said that it is important for the new provost to have a “long view about the future of the university, and to be proactive instead of reactive.”

She also feels that it is important that the new provost be an individual “capable of enacting an educational vision for the university.”

The provost selection process will be ongoing through the 2011-2012 academic year. More information about the search, including the draft of the advertisement to be placed in The Chronicle of Higher Education, feedback submission, and information on the selection, can be found by visiting the provost search webpage at http://www.wcu.edu/29623.asp. Inquiries should be directed to provostsearch@wcu.edu

In addition to Starnes, the provost search committee members are:

Abilasha (Abi) Aparajithan, graduate student representative, a second-year graduate student studying college student personnel.

Carol Burton, assistant vice chancellor for undergraduate studies, Office of the Provost.

Peg Connelly, associate professor and recreational therapy program director, School of Health Sciences, College of Health and Human Sciences.

Sloan Despeaux, associate professor of mathematics and computer science, College of Arts and Sciences.

A.J. Grube, department head and associate professor of business administration and law, College of Business.

Brian Howell, assistant professor and director of electrical and computer engineering, Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology.

Jason Lavigne, staff representative, SQL database administrator, Information Technology Services, and chair of WCU’s Staff Senate.

Jerry Miller, Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science, geosciences and natural resources, College of Arts and Sciences.

Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs.

Mickey Randolph, professor of psychology, College of Education and Allied Professions.

Krista Schmidt, assistant professor, reference librarian and science liaison, Hunter Library.

Perry Schoon, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions.

Shannon Thompson, associate professor in the School of Music, College of Fine and Performing Arts.

Kyle Thomson, undergraduate student representative, a sophomore majoring in marketing.

Steve Warren, former chair of the WCU Board of Trustees, an attorney with the firm of Long, Parker, Warren, Anderson and Payne, P.A.