Interim Provost reappointed instead of three suggested candidates

Christine Lee, News Editor

Instead of hiring one of the candidates recommended by the search committee, President Patrick Leahy has chosen to extend interim provost Therese Wignot’s time as interim provost for another year.

In an email to the campus community from Feb. 20, Leahy announced that after conversing with members of the provost search committee, his cabinet and various faculty and staff, he asked Wignot to continue in her role as interim provost for another year.

“I think the three candidates we did have were all excellent people, either have been leaders in higher education or will be leaders in higher education, so it wasn’t so much a measure of a dissatisfaction with the search I think it was sort of finding the perfect person and we had a very good option in Dr. Wignot,” Leahy said.

Leahy said a combination of two factors led to his decision on the provost. The first was although he was pleased with the search committee’s work in identifying candidates, he didn’t sense any one of them were right for Wilkes.

“There were good candidates that emerged so I was pleased with the work the search committee did in identifying candidates but I just didn’t see in them as our next senior vice president and provost,” Leahy said. “I just didn’t sense that they were right fit for Wilkes University at this time.”

The second factor was that over the past six months, he has gotten to know and trust Wignot as Interim Provost.

“As she has worked as the Interim Provost, I’ve gotten to know her better, I’ve gotten to trust her even more,” Leahy said. “I think she does a wonderful job representing the interests of our faculty and helping to manage the academic side of the house and as I’ve gotten to know her more my comfort level and my respect for her as a provost has increased the more I work with her.”

Wignot said she is pleased to serve as interim provost for another year and said she is more confident in the role and tackling topics the role expects her to take on.

“It is humbling that Dr. Leahy felt comfortable enough with me to have me continue in the role for the next year and I’m just very happy to have the opportunity to serve the university in   this important role,” Wignot said. “Being a little more comfortable in it, I’m a little more confident moving forward and tackling issues that I’m expected to deal with in the position.”

She said that her main goal for next year will be to work on the university’s new strategic plan, which is the university’s vision and plans for the future.

In the email, Leahy announced three improvements that will be made to the provost search next year: the search committee will begin earlier in the year in an effort to get ahead of other colleges recruiting provost candidates, he will be more personally involved in the search process and working more closely with the search committee to identify and recruit candidates, in particular speaking to candidates and the search committee, and the recruitment prospectus will be re-written.

Leahy hopes there will be more enthusiasm in the search process because the community will know him more next year.

“This will be a year to a year and a half into my tenure at Wilkes and I hope there is some enthusiasm around what we might be able to do together and I hope that can be conveyed in a more sincere way than we were able to a year ago,” Leahy said.

Wignot said she hasn’t thought about applying for the position of provost this spring but remains focused on getting the work at hand done.

“It’s a little early for me to start thinking about if I’m going to be applying for the position when it’s readvertised in the fall,” Wignot said. “I love teaching but right now my focus is on doing the job that needs to be done in the upcoming year and as it gets closer to the fall I’ll start thinking seriously if I’m going to apply for the position.”

Leahy said he is interested in a provost who shares the same communication style, which he characterizes as “highly engaged and genuinely collaborative.”

“I absolutely want the provost to share those commitments because when I’m not on campus I want to be very confident that the decisions made (at Wilkes) along that same style,” Leahy said.

However, Leahy hopes the next provost will be someone who is sincere and rose within the faculty at his or her institution. He said he and the next provost don’t have to be the same but they should have similar goals.

“I want the provost to be a serious academic and to have come up through the faculty ranks because I didn’t and I think that that complimentary relationship would be very positive for Wilkes University,” Leahy said. “Our experiences can be very different and complementary, our personalities can be different and complimentary but our values around active engagement and genuine collaboration have to be the same.”

In addition to being a serious academic, Leahy said he hopes the next provost will be committed to student success and be able to challenge his ideas.

“I’m very interested in a serious academic, someone who is totally committed to student success, someone who has the presence to challenge me, help me to develop and grow and as a university president but also the presence to lead the university in my absence,” Leahy said.

Provost search committee chair Paul Adams said even though the outcome of the search committee was unexpected, he sees it as a positive outcome.

“Our experience always tells us to always think there will be something unexpected and perhaps our outcome is just that, it wasn’t the outcome that we anticipated but on the other hand we have to view it as a good outcome,” Adams said.