Provost candidates take to campus; discuss policies in open forum

Austin Loukas

Christine Lee, News Editor

When students hear the term provost, most aren’t aware of his or her role on campus and in the lives of students.

In a survey of 10 students, none knew what the role of provost was on campus, while a little over half knew Wilkes had a provost.

Vice President of Student Affairs Paul Adams explained that the role of the provost is the chief academic officer, meaning it is his or her job to oversee and advance the interests of the undergraduate, graduate and professional education at Wilkes.

He explained it is the provost’s job to advocate for the academic priorities and to make sure Wilkes recruits and retains a “superb and diverse” faculty. It is also their job to attain resources and support of excellent teaching, scholarly pursuits and service and support of the university.

Adams said the provost’s most important role in the life of the university is that, as the chief academic officer, they are responsible for anything related to academics.

“As the chief academic officer, the provost is responsible for leading all of the academic affairs division, providing leadership for it and the vision to accomplish the university’s mission,” Adams said.

For students, Adams explained, the provost’s most important role is maintaining Wilkes’ mission.

“It’s the provost’s responsibility to execute and make sure the resources are in place to see that the mission is fulfilled,” Adams said.

In addition to the responsibilities Adams highlights, the provost also serves as the senior vice president, meaning if the president isn’t around, the provost is the one in charge on campus.

This year, Wilkes has been active in its search for a new provost, led by a search committee which Adams is chair. Last week, two of the three candidates were invited to campus to meet with faculty, staff, administration and students.

Adams described the three candidates visiting campus as the best-fit of all the candidates interviewed by the search committee.

“The three that we selected would be three we felt would be the best fit for Wilkes University at this time,” Adams said.

The first candidate to visit was Jay Harper, who served as provost and professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. Some of the initiatives he would take if selected include having a constructive dialogue with the president, working between the administration and faculty, developing professional deans to serve as the “voice of (the) college” and preparing students to go forward.

Others include making sure students get the education they were promised, going to various events to show his support of students and forming a student group to advise him on their issues.

The second candidate to visit was Darin Fields, who serves as vice president for Academic Affairs, dean of Faculty and the Sarah B. Cochran professor of English at Bethany College in West Virginia. He previously worked at Wilkes, starting in 1993 as an assistant, later associate professor of English. He later served as chair of the Department of Humanities and dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences until 2008.

Some of Fields’ initiatives if selected as provost include being an advocate for the faculty, assisting the president in achieving institutional goals and being an advocate for students.

Others include collaborating with Adams as the vice president of Student Affairs and delivering an education in a small setting that is distinctive to Wilkes’ identity, specifically focusing on undergraduates and the liberal arts core. He said as a former faculty and administrative member, He said he could easily tap into and understand the culture at Wilkes.

Although he declined to release the name of the third candidate to The Beacon, Adams said the third candidate will visit campus Feb. 11 and 12 and the name will be announced on Feb. 7. After that visit, the committee intends to meet with President Patrick Leahy the week of Feb. 11-15. It will be up to Leahy to decide which candidate becomes provost.

Adams encourages members of the campus community to share their reactions and thoughts to members of the search committee,

which can be found on the Wilkes website. They can also provide feedback to the search committee through an electronic form on the Wilkes website.

For more info on the Provost search, visit http://www.wilkes.edu/pages/4448.asp