Finalists named for WCU Provost position

Western Carolina’s search for a new provost is nearing its deliberating moments. A 16-person committee, tasked with finding and recommending a candidate to Chancellor David Belcher, has narrowed its selection down to three.

The original 23 applicants were judged based on criteria outlined by the committee in their template of desired characteristics. Among the traits included were an understanding of the identity of WCU, the ability to develop leaders within the administration, as well as a strong commitment to academic freedom and responsibility. The remaining candidates, Nat Frazer of Utah State University, Suzanne Ozment of the University of South Carolina Aiken, and Denise Battles of the University of Northern Colorado, made campus visits last month to attend interviews and meet with the public. The potential provosts hosted individual presentations on the topic of “The Future of An Engaged Regional University” from 2 to 3:30 p.m. the day of their respective visits.

Richard Starnes, chair of the provost search committee and head of the History Department at WCU, stressed that the committee would strongly take into account the response from campus constituents when evaluating the candidates.

“The committee has tried to have an open process and has solicited feedback from faculty senates as well as student organizations,” Starnes said, but added that, “It was ultimately the chancellor’s decision.”

Committee members have scheduled informal meet and greets along with more formal receptions intended to allow campus constituents the opportunity to garner their impressions of the contenders.

Nat Frazer, dean of the College of Natural Resources at Utah State, made his visit on Jan. 20. He conducted a speech and reception within the University Center. Dr. Frazer earned his bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Georgia, his master’s degree in History and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Springfield, and then returned to the University of Georgia to earn his doctorate in Ecology. A tenured professor at a number of universities, he became a dean at Utah State in 2006. In his letter to the committee, Dr. Frazer promises to “make decisions as transparent as possible.”

Suzanne Ozment, currently the executive chancellor for academic affairs at University of South Carolina – Aiken, visited Western on Jan. 26. She too gave a formal presentation from 2-3:30 p.m. along with a meet and greet session from 4-5 p.m. in the University Center. Dr. Ozment earned each of her degrees from North Carolina universities, including East Carolina University where she obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English, and UNC Greensboro where she obtained her doctorate in Victorian literature. She taught at Lenoir-Rhyne College and The Citadel, and became vice chancellor at USC Aiken in 2002. In her response to the committee’s ad, Dr. Ozment promises to “promote the intellectual life of the college and to maintain a campus environment that fosters exploration, inquiry, and dialogue—practices at the heart of liberal learning.”

Denise Battles, dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences at Northern Colorado, made her visit to campus on Jan. 31. Her presentation and reception was also in the University Center from 2-5 p.m. Dr. Battles earned her bachelor’s degree in geology from Colgate University, obtained her doctorate in Geology from the University of California, and graduated from the Management Development Program at Harvard University. Dr. Battles promises to bring “a capacity for leading transformative change” to Western’s administration.

Starnes admitted that it was “difficult to put a time lime” but expects the new provost to be announced sometime between mid to late February.