Panel tries to outline best possible provost

The committee that will help select USF’s next provost met Wednesday to revise applicant interview questions and set up interview dates with select candidates, but it also addressed a more general question.

What makes a good provost?

The topic was brought up early in the meeting by marine sciences professor Albert Hine, who said he wanted to know how other committee members interpreted the advertisement for the position placed in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The qualifications for the position, as published in the advertisement, include strong academic leadership capabilities, commitment to diversity, communication with “internal and external groups” and demonstration of fund-raising skills.

Hine told the committee he thought USF would be best served to choose a provost who has had a strong background in research; someone who felt comfortable lobbying for money in Tallahassee or Washington D.C.

“I don’t think we want someone who will grow into the job but someone who has been there before,” he said.

Not all agreed with Hine’s assessment. Trevor Purcell, director of Africana Studies, told the committee that USF already had a position covering that aspect — Vice President of research Ian Phillips — and it was more important to find a candidate who would be able to supplement Phillips’ job of garnering research dollars.

“What (Hines) has done is simply emphasizing research over and above what is stated in the announcement ” Purcell said in an interview after the meeting. “While I agree the provost should be someone who has done his or her own research and has applied for grants … the provost should not be expected to be a super researcher, because we have someone in the university who fills that position.”

Honors College Dean and committee chairman Stuart Silverman said he was pleased with the discussion among the members. Until Wednesday, the committee, which was formed in the beginning of the fall semester, had not discussed in-depth the characteristics of a “good” provost.

“The provost is one of two people in the university that has an effect on everybody in the university,” Silverman said after the meeting. “(The committee members) are serious people, and they have gone about this task seriously, and there is not a single person in that room who does not want the best possible candidate.”

More than 65 applicants are being considered for the position. After Wednesday’s meeting the committee settled on eight with which it would conduct phone interviews. But that doesn’t rule out the rest, Silverman stressed. It is possible, he said, that after the phone interviews — which will be conducted through conference calls Nov. 14 and 17 –committee members could opt to dip back into the pool of candidates and conduct a few more interviews. After the interviews, committee members will then decide on whom to invite to campus.

Silverman said the campus visit will probably last about three days, and it will give the candidates an opportunity to meet students, faculty and staff.

After their visits to the university, the committee will recommend an undetermined number of applicants to USF President Judy Genshaft. The committee will not rank their recommendations, Silverman said, but they will submit written evaluations of each candidate to aid the president, who makes the final decision.

The eight candidates the committee plans to interview: Renu Khator, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and interim-provost for USF; Anthony Garro of Lehman College of the City University of New York; Gerry Giordano of Utah State; Cristina Gonzalez of the University of California, Davis; Stephen Lehmkuhle of the University of Missouri system; Laura Lindsay of Louisiana State University; Gary Pivo of the University of Arizona; and John Pritchett of Auburn University.