More members named to provost search committee at UI

URBANA — The University of Illinois is gearing up to fill a key academic leadership position at the Urbana campus, the job of provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

A search committee has been appointed to find a replacement for interim Provost Richard Wheeler, who was appointed almost two years ago in an administrative shakeup following the Category I admissions scandal and the resignation of former Chancellor Richard Herman.

Wheeler, a longtime campus administrator, said he will step down once a new provost is named.

"I'm not a candidate," he said Monday.

The hope is to have a new provost on board by next fall, according to Associate Chancellor Menah Pratt-Clarke, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access.

Vice President and Chancellor Phyllis Wise appointed University Librarian Paula Kaufman to chair the 11-member search committee. Parker Executive Search in Atlanta, Ga., an outside consulting firm, will assist with the search.

Wise named four other committee members on Monday: physics Professor Douglas Beck, who chaired the recent chancellor's search committee; law Professor Margareth Etienne; Victor Mullins, associate dean in the College of Business; and UI student Juan Acevedo.

Christophe Pierre, vice president for academic affairs, will serve as ex officio member of the committee.

The campus senate appointed four other faculty members and one student last week: James Anderson, education; Faye Dong, food science; Barbara Minsker, civil and environmental engineering; Catherine Prendergast, English/rhetoric; Joseph Rosenblatt, mathematics; and Miheer Munjal, junior in engineering.

The provost is the campus' chief academic officer, second-in-command to the chancellor, and plays a key role in budget decisions.

"We seek an energetic, innovative and seasoned leader; a scholar of academic distinction who will provide leadership in the pursuit of academic excellence," according to the job description posted Monday.

Three of the last four provosts before Wheeler came from other universities: Linda Katehi from Purdue, Herman from Maryland and Robert Berdahl from Oregon. Larry Faulkner, the provost just before Herman, was a UI professor and dean before being promoted to provost.

When Herman resigned as chancellor, then-interim Provost Robert Easter became interim chancellor as well. Katehi had already left campus to become chancellor at the University of California-Davis, but the search for a new provost had been put on hold just before Hermans resignation.

So Wheeler, then a vice provost, had taken on other duties associated with the provosts office as acting vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Several months after Easter was promoted to chancellor, Wheeler was named interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Previously, Wheeler had been dean of the Graduate College and vice chancellor for academic affairs, and before that head of the English Department.

"It has been a very satisfying thing to be in this job," Wheeler said Monday. "I have loved my working relationship with Bob Easter. I think Phyllis Wise is exactly what the university needs to move forward. It's very important that she get a strong provost to take over the reins of this office. It's an important job on campus."

Wheeler said his time was defined by the circumstances of his appointment — namely, the state's budget difficulties and the need to constrain spending on campus, and the resignations of the chancellor, president and board of trustees in a matter of weeks.

"I'm proud that we are in better financial shape than we were," Wheeler said, and that the campus was able to downsize without "draconian layoffs."

He said the Stewarding Excellence process helped the campus reflect on its mission in "pretty interesting ways," citing a thorough review of doctoral programs and a reallocation of duties from the registrar's office to the Graduate College.

"I believe we have a better understanding about how essential undergraduate instruction is to what we are doing," Wheeler added.

He also said the campus was able to "hold our position" on closing the Institute of Aviation, demonstrating an "institutional will that hasn't always been a part of what we've been able to do."

And he cited new efficiencies in information technology server operations and implementation of unified communications, "a brave and very good thing to do" that hasn't generated as many complaints as he feared.

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