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Provost considered presidential job at Mississippi college

USF Provost Renu Khator will be staying at USF after a brief flirtation with the idea of being president at Mississippi State University.

“You have to see what other professional development opportunities are out there,” Khator said. “The next job from provostship is either you can stay as provost or you can go as president somewhere.”

The selection process for the presidency of MSU was very secretive, but the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal listed Khator as one of a few finalists.

Khator said MSU “expressed serious interest” in her as a replacement for President Charles Lee, whose last official day is Saturday. Robert Foglesong, president and director of the Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation, will be replacing Lee.

Khator said she decided USF would be a better fit for her than MSU and to not take the last step in the selection process: visiting the campus.

“I just couldn’t get the green and gold out of my blood,” Khator said. “I’ve been at USF for 20 years, and I’ve been very happy, and I am very happy.”

Khator, who has been provost since early 2004, added that she is regularly solicited for presidencies at universities.

“There are a lot of solicitations for different opportunities that come by my desk, and I say, ‘No, I’m not interested.'” Khator said. “This one I just decided, ‘OK, I’ll meet with the (Mississippi College Board)’ … the important thing is I’m here.”

Khator said the fact that she is often offered positions reflects well on USF.

“The fact that other people approach me is a really good sign in the sense that we, as an institution, must be doing something right,” Khator said.

She did not specify a reason for giving the MSU position more consideration than the others she has been offered.

The MSU presidential search was performed behind closed doors, which, according to one Media Relations official at MSU, is partially to entice applicants who might not want their bosses knowing they have applied elsewhere. Khator said the secrecy of MSU’s search played no part in her decision to look into the position at MSU.

According to the Associated Press, Lee made $400,000 a year. His replacement’s salary is not yet known. USF President Judy Genshaft makes $359,856 a year.

Khator said money, however, was also not a reason she decided to check out the job at MSU.

“Money is not everything … I don’t play those kind of games,” Khator said.

Khator made sure to point out she is not looking to leave USF at all.

“It’s not like I’m actively looking for something – but you know, I have to see what other professional development opportunities are there,” she said. “I am definitely not actively looking for any position because I’m happy here.”

Khator said she has not looked into any presidencies other than MSU, but she did note that the average time for someone to say in the position of provost is about four years.

Also referred to as the vice president of Academic Affairs, the provost is generally considered to be the second most important member of the administration, just below the president. One of Khator’s more important duties is overseeing the faculty at USF.

Most faculty asked about the situation had kind words for Khator and said her departure would be a loss for the University.

“I am very glad she’s here, I’m very glad she stayed, and I think she is a wonderful provost,” Director of the Hebrew program in the Department of World Languages Rina Donchin said. “I think she listens to the faculty.”

MSU has approximately 16,000 students and is 125 miles northeast of Mississippi’s capital, Jackson. It is a member of the Southeastern Conference.