Committee Narrows Search for New Provost

By Kim Uslin
Elm Staff Writer

Provost candidate Jeffrey Barker speaks to a crowd of faculty, staff and students. He is one of four finalists in the nationwide search for a new College provost and dean.
- Photo courtesy of Natalie Butz

In the past few weeks, Washington College students have received email invitations to several open forums with the candidates for provost. These forums are among the final stages in the Provost and Dean Search
Committee’s extensive hunt for a new provost and dean.

As stated on the school website, “the provost and dean of the College is the chief academic officer for the College,” with such responsibilities as budget planning, establishment of curriculum standards, and recruiting, hiring, and evaluating faculty.

“The provost and dean is both faculty member and faculty leader,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Mela Dutka. “It is a critical position, second only to the President. I think first and foremost the candidate who will be the most successful brings a commitment to liberal arts. I think what we do, that personalized experience in and out of the classroom, works well for students. The College wants someone who values teaching, someone who is able to help us promote what is so strong here. We want a provost who will help us to think about what our distinguishing characteristics are as an institution, to promote who we are and what makes us stand out.”

In order to find such a person, the College has undertaken an extensive search. The Provost and Dean Search Committee hired a search firm to assist in recruitment and advertising for the position. After assembling a group of highly-qualified candidates, the pool was narrowed in successive stages.

Confidential interviews determined the final four candidates, who have been invited to campus to meet with administration and faculty and engage in open forums. Jeffrey Barker, Emily Chamlee-Wright, Robert Midkiff, and Karen Ryan are these candidates.

“While WC gets to know the candidates, the candidates are getting to know WC,” said Dutka. “We obviously want the candidates to work here, but we want the candidates to want to work here as well.”

In addition to both informal and formal meetings with administration, faculty, and staff, the open forums provide a good opportunity for this familiarization. “

Our goal as a Committee is to ensure that the campus community has the chance to participate in speaking with the candidates, asking questions, and engaging with them,” Dutka said.

The candidates participate in several forums: one for faculty/staff and administration, one for students, and one campus-wide open forum. At these forums, attendees are able to ask questions of and voice concerns to the candidates. In this way, the College is able to see how the candidate in question interacts with members of the campus community and gets a sense of what he or she will bring to the table. The candidates themselves are also given the opportunity to ask questions, allowing for a better understanding of what WC is and what it needs.

After this period, the Committee (consisting of faculty, administration/staff, and student representatives) will make their recommendations to WC President Mitchell Reiss. As the Provost reports directly to the President, it is ultimately his decision to whom the position is awarded.

For those who are interested, the final forum will be held Friday, Feb. 17 from 1:15–2:15 in the Casey Academic Center.

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