The Four Finalists for Provost: Some Initial Thoughts

Yesterday, VP for Communications Walter Kraft sent out some basic information on the candidates coming to campus for the Provost position. Here’s the meat of that email:

Students, faculty and staff:

Below are links to information about each of the four finalist candidates for Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, along with their respective schedules:

Rhonda Longworth, Ph.D.: Monday, March 13, 8- 9:20 a.m.
https://www.emich.edu/communications/documents/provost/provost-search-longworth.pdf

Robert Knight, D.M.: Tuesday, March 14, 8-9:20 a.m.

https://www.emich.edu/communications/documents/provost/provost-search-knight.pdf

Louay Chamra, Ph.D.: Wednesday, March 15, 8-9:20 a.m.

https://www.emich.edu/communications/documents/provost/provost-search-chamra.pdf

Ricardo Brown, Ph.D.: Thursday, March 16, 8-9:20 a.m.
https://www.emich.edu/communications/documents/provost/provost-search-brown.pdf

All sessions will take place in the Student Center Auditorium.

Each candidate has been asked to prepare a brief introductory presentation. The remainder of the time is for questions and answers.

I won’t be attending any of these interviews, but that isn’t going to stop me from offering some thoughts on all of this (and I of course encourage your comments as well, especially after these sessions happen). More after the break.

For those reading this who aren’t familiar with the various rankings and ordering of administrative positions in academia (and Lord knows I wasn’t before I became a grad student, maybe later than that): the provost is basically the “Chief Operating Officer”  of all things academic at the university. The president is the one in charge, sure, but that job also includes all of the things like athletics and the other not academic things that a place like EMU does. Plus a lot of the work of a president is a sort of “leadership/vision thing,” and also a lot of fundraising things. The provost is the one who the various deans report to, and the various department heads report to the various deans. In other words, it’s a big job.

I think the committee has some made some interesting choices of finalists here.

It was probably inevitable that Longworth would be in the mix since she’s been in the interim position for a while now– not to mention the fact she’s had other administrative positions in Welch Hall in recent years. I don’t know what her chances are of getting the job, but quite frankly, I hope the committee and the president give one of these other folks a chance. I don’t really know Rhonda as a person that well, but I’ve always had pleasant small-talk exchanges with her, so this is nothing personal from my point of view. But for better or worse, she’s been the point person on both this equivalency mess and the controversial “Academic Partners” agreement. So if she gets the job, then I think it means that the powers that be must think that everything at EMU is just hunky-dory– a “stay the course” hire, if you will. And to be honest, I think that would send a pretty bad signal.

The other three candidates seem to me to sort of satisfy certain categories the committee (through the search firm, I think) wanted to make sure were in play. Robert Knight was trained as an opera singer, is currently a dean at California State University at Chico (which is also a university that started as a Normal School way back win), and he’s the “humanities” choice. In fact, I stumbled across this relatively recent video of him doing his thing:

Louay Chamra was trained as an engineer and he’s the dean of the College of Engineering at Oakland University.  I stumbled across this little interview of him on YouTube where he was talking about some of the various expansions and initiatives he had been involved in recently:

He seems reasonable, but hey, it’s a short interview.

Then there’s Ricardo Brown, who was trained in physiology (his scholarship seems to be about cardiovascular disease) and who is a dean at Jackson State University which is an HBCU in Mississippi. He seems pretty qualified too, though the one thing about him that’s different from the other candidates: I don’t think he’s had administrative experience working on a unionized campus like ours.

So we’ll see what happens. If folks happen to know more and/or go to any of these open forums with these candidates next week, I hope you feel free to comment about it here.

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