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Quest to fill provost position continues

Written by: John Stephen

The prolonged hunt to find a permanent replacement for one of VSU’s highest offices appears to be coming to a close.

Since the summer of 2012, VSU has been searching nationwide for a new provost and vice president of academic affairs. Now, after a rigorous selection process, three final candidates will be visiting VSU within the next several weeks to conduct on-campus interviews.

All three candidates hold doctorate degrees and have extensive experience as high-ranking officials at various colleges across the country.

The first on-campus interview will be Feb.17-18 with Dr. Alberto Ruiz, a dean at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Then, Dr. Hudson Rodgers, a dean at Florida Gulf Coast University, will visit the campus Feb. 26-27. The interviews will conclude March 3-4 with Dr. Stephen Kolison Jr., an associate vice president in the University of Wisconsin System.

Dr. Shirley Hardin, chair of the Provost & VPAA Search Committee, said she and her fellow committee members have worked hard to discover and recruit only the most qualified candidates.

“(The candidates’) experiences are quite diverse and cover every aspect of the position description advertised,” Dr. Hardin said on the committee’s website. “We are very pleased that the VSU faculty, staff, students and the community will be given a unique opportunity to meet and to interact with all of the candidates and to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.”

The position of provost holds wide-ranging responsibility and authority. The candidate who earns such a title will be directly under the president in the university’s chain of command, will serve as a member of the president’s cabinet and will act as the university’s chief executive in the president’s absence, according to a position announcement released by VSU.

The new provost will also oversee all units that make up the division of academic affairs, including Odum Library and the seven colleges within VSU, such as the College of Arts & Sciences and the Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration. Furthermore, he will manage numerous administrative divisions, such as information technology and international programs.

The former VSU provost, Dr. Phil Gunter, died unexpectedly in May 2012, and Dr. Karla Hull was named interim provost for the 2012-13 school year.  After failing to secure a permanent replacement during that year, VSU formed the Provost & VPAA Search Committee in July 2013. Dr. David C. Danahar was appointed interim provost for the 2013-14 school year while the committee searched for individuals capable of serving as VSU’s provost.

“…The office of the Provost & VPAA has not enjoyed stability in leadership for over two years,” Hardin said. “The unfortunate death of Dr. Phil Gunter and a failed search last year certainly contributed to this instability, making the current search all the more significant to the University.”

President William J. McKinney commended the work of the committee and is confident that the final candidates are all highly qualified. He also said the changing landscape of higher education has made the search for a new provost quite difficult.

“The position of provost is among the most challenging in all of higher education,” McKinney said. “Nationwide, fewer and fewer seasoned academic administrators are seeking the position.  As a result, applicant pools are small and there is great competition for the very best candidates.”

For more information on the provost search and the upcoming on-campus interviews, visit www.valdosta.edu and click the “Provost Search Finalists” box located in the lower right of the page.

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