Five potential provosts invited to visit campus

Five finalists for the University’s next provost position – the chief academic officer and second-in-command after University President Steven Knapp – will be flown in over the next two weeks to interview with students, administrators and deans, the search committee chairman said Wednesday.

After receiving more than 200 nominations for the position, the search committee narrowed the group down to 23 individuals, search committee chair Forrest Maltzman said. Knapp personally interviewed all 23 candidates before he and the search committee chose five finalists to visit campus, beginning Wednesday.

Key search committee members indicated the interviews this week will be akin to taking a date home to meet the parents as the finalists will meet students, deans, the vice presidents, and some at-large professors on their home turf.

“It’s important for candidates to visit our campuses so they can better understand the University and interact with representatives of all its constituents, including students,” Knapp said in an e-mail. “In this second round, candidates go through a very rigorous schedule, meeting dozens of people, so they can answer their questions about us, and we can take a close and careful look at them.”

Knapp, who came to GW from the provost position at Johns Hopkins University, said he is looking for “someone who can motivate and support the deans; work with faculty, students, and staff in developing and implementing academic priorities and continuing to enhance the overall student experience; and act as president in the president’s absence.”

Maltzman said he could not disclose the names of the five finalists but said the group included both men and women from a variety of academic backgrounds and that all currently hold a high-level position at other universities.

“We wanted people who were very experienced… but we also want people with experience working with students,” Maltzman said. “They had to be a professor, they have to have academic credentials – that was sort of a given.”

The University hopes to name the provost in early March so the incoming provost could help fill the three current and soon-to-be vacant dean positions in the School of Business, the School of Public Health and Health Services, and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, Maltzman said.

“It makes sense to make sure the provost-elect would be comfortable working with the new deans,” Maltzman said.

Maltzman said he and the committee were “very interested in seeing how students react to the candidates.”

“I met with all of them for an hour and was impressed with all of them but I want to know if students think this is someone they can work with,” Maltzman said.

The students who will interview the candidates include SA President Julie Bindelglass, Executive Vice President Jason Lifton, the SA Senate’s Academic Affairs Committee, and Presidential Administrative Fellows.

“The Student Association members are the ones who have been working with the administration and know what makes an administrator a good administrator for students,” Lifton said. “[The University] is looking for who we think students would find most approachable.”

Erik Ashida, chair of the SA’s Academic Affairs Committee, said he was asked not to give details about the candidates or interviews. Job searches at this level are often conducted secretly, as revealing candidates could jeopardize their employment at their current institution.

“We’re going to do our best to ask questions that are of interest to students,” said Ashida, an undergraduate senator in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Maltzman said that although the University is still conducting reference checks on its five finalists and may invite more to come to campus, he was confident that any of the candidates selected would be excellent choices.

“In some respects, it’s a problem, but overall I’m glad we have too many great candidates,” Maltzman said. “The quality of candidates speaks volumes about GW – we heard again and again from the candidates that they want to come here because the school has so much potential.”

The incoming provost is expected to take office July 1 and would replace Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman. The provost title is typically given to the chief academic officer of universities but Vice President for Health Affairs John “Skip” Williams currently holds the title.

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