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December 6, 2004

Finalists Named in Search for Provost

Two experienced senior academic administrators have been identified as finalists in the search for a new provost and vice president for academic affairs.

The candidates were selected from a pool of 55 applications by a 10-member search committee comprising faculty, staff, and students and headed by Robert Birge, Harold S. Schwenk Sr. Distinguished Professor of Chemistry.

“There were plenty of good candidates,” says Birge, “and these finalists are very impressive.”

Both will be visiting the campus this week.

The candidates are:

Sharon Brehm, senior adviser to the president of Indiana University and former chancellor and vice president of academic affairs at Indiana University. Brehm also held positions as provost of Ohio University and dean of arts and sciences at the State University of New York at Binghamton. A professor of psychology, she earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Duke
University, and a master’s from Harvard.

Peter Nicholls, provost and academic vice president at Colorado State University. Nicholls previously was dean of arts and sciences at Kansas State University and associate dean and acting dean of liberal arts and sciences at Northern Illinois University. A math professor, he holds a bachelor’s degree from London University and a Ph.D. from Cambridge University in England.

Jay Noren, executive vice president and provost and dean of the graduate college at the University of Nebraska, was a third finalist but has withdrawn from the search.

Birge says the committee emphasized three criteria in the search: previous administrative experience in higher education or another complex organization; a record of significant scholarship; and outstanding leadership qualities.

“The job of provost is critically important to the educational goals and research stature of the University,” he says. “The person who occupies the provost’s position oversees all of the academic programs.” Birge notes that this search differed from the previous search for chancellor, since the position was redefined in 2003 to focus on academic responsibilities for the University other than the Health Center. It also includes responsibility for student life and service activities.

Ten applicants were shortlisted, and met with the search committee for interviews that took place off-campus, which allowed the candidates to maintain confidentiality at that stage. The committee then forwarded the names of finalists to University President Philip E. Austin.

Brehm, Nicholls, and Noren visited the University in late November at the President’s invitation, and met with selected groups including the deans, the Senate Executive Committee, senior administrators, and the chair of the search committee. They also met or took part in a phone interview with members of the Board of Trustees, and met with the executive vice president for health affairs.

Brehm and Nicholls will return to campus this week to meet with department heads, faculty, students, and others. An open forum is planned for each of the candidates, the time and location of which will be communicated to the University community by e-mail. Austin says he will welcome e-mail or other communications regarding thoughts about the candidates.

Austin hopes to make a decision soon. “The choice of a provost and senior vice president for academic affairs is extremely important to the future of the institution,” he says. “It is critical that the selected candidate presents a strong record of achievement, as both our finalists clearly do, and that they feel comfortable with the University’s mission and aspirations. The visits over the past weeks, and those still to come, will give all of us – including the candidates – an opportunity to assess whether this is the right fit at the right time.”

The successful candidate will replace John D. Petersen, who left the University in June to become president of the University of Tennessee.