College employs Academic Search to aid in pursuit of new provost

It has been 15 months since Stephen Briggs, then provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, left the College to accept the presidency at another institution. Since then, Elizabeth Paul has held the post of interim provost, and a search committee for a permanent replacement has been formed.

Over the summer, the committee, led by Christopher Fisher, chair of African-American studies, interviewed and hired Tobie van der Vorm of Academic Search to serve as a consultant to expedite that process.

“We have previously been impressed with this search firm … and particularly impressed with Dr. van der Vorm in her interview,” College President R. Barbara Gitenstein said via e-mail.

The College has used Academic Search twice before for finding and hiring the last provost as well as Gitenstein herself. The consulting firm is being paid $65,000, plus travel expenses, for its services, which the search committee feels is well worth it.

“You want to make sure you have the absolute best,” Fisher said. Having a search consultant will also “stop wastefulness,” he added, explaining that hiring the wrong candidate would only result in

repeating the process. Gitenstein expressed a similar sentiment.

“It is the norm to use professional search consultants in these types of searches in order to assure that the institution receives the best candidate pool possible,” including those who “are appropriate for the position but might not be actively looking for another position at the time,” Gitenstein said.

The next provost will hold the titles of provost and executive vice president.

“The addition of the executive vice president was really as a substitute for (vice president for Academic Affairs),” Gitenstein said, explaining the change in title. “The point is that this position as the second officer of the College, serving as senior officer when the president is off campus, has more authority and responsibility than any other vice president.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 26, van der Vorm held an open forum in Loser Hall in order to ascertain thoughts and expectations of the position’s role at the College, as well as to “clarify its needs and challenges which would be addressed by a particular appointment,” Gitenstein said.

John Karsnitz, chair of Technological Studies, who attended the forum, further described the position.

“There are lots of times the president is off campus,” Karsnitz said. But perhaps more importantly, “The provost meets with the president and the council of deans,” serving as an intermediary, Karsnitz explained.

The provost will also “(lead) the rest of the cabinet in such important projects as institutional planning,” Gitenstein said.

The faculty and staff in attendance at the forum expressed a number of hopes and expectations, as well as some concerns.

Issues raised at the forum included finding someone who will aid the School of Nursing through a nationwide faculty shortage, preserving transparency in the College’s governance, fostering the internationalization of the campus and promoting cohesion between the College’s schools.

It was also suggested that the College needs someone who can improve the morale lowered by both the budget cuts and extensive transformation process, as well as someone who can help the College become a larger part of the national dialogue and gain more nationwide recognition.

Similar meetings and forums are scheduled for early February, when it is expected that the final candidates will visit the campus.

Currently, an advertisement for the position is being run in the “Chronicle for Higher Education,” probably the single most popular professional publication on higher education issues,” Gitenstein said.

According to van der Vorm, applications for the position have already been received. “(It’s) a good sign,” she said, “and shows name recognition.”