URBANA — As a scholar and engineering administrator at the University of Illinois, Ilesanmi "Ade" Adesida said he has been a strong advocate for excellence and if chosen to be provost he will become a campuswide advocate with the "commitment and capacity for hard work."
"I am more than prepared to roll up my sleeves with you," he said to faculty, staff and students assembled in the Spurlock Museum in Urbana on Thursday. Adesida, dean of the UI College of Engineering, described himself as an agent of "considerate and thoughtful change" who is committed to excellence, diversity and shared governance.
Adesida was the third and final candidate for the position of provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, the chief academic officer for the campus.
Born in Nigeria, Adesida earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering from the University of California-Berkeley. He was a professor at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Nigeria and Cornell University in New York before returning to the University of Illinois as a electrical and computer engineering professor in 1987. A researcher in fields such as semiconductors and nanotechnology, he eventually joined the Coordinated Science Laboratory and Beckman Institute. In 2005, he became director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory. Adesida served as interim dean of the college from 2005 until 2006, when he was appointed dean.
His long-standing approach to leadership, he said, has been "through direct engagement" and he would take a similar approach to the role of provost, Adesida said.
"I like to call myself a bottoms-up guy," he said. "I believe in the great collective strength of faculty, staff. This is the Illinois way, the Illinois DNA," he said.
Adesida spoke about his initiatives and involvement on campus and in the college regarding budgeting, supporting education innovation, developing international opportunities and fundraising. He said he works to establish committees that look at issues, develop policies and implement those policies. On the topic of fundraising, he spoke about the need to reach out to alumni across the country and the world.
The public forums, during which candidates spoke for about 30 minutes and then answered questions from the audience, were a first for the campus. In previous hirings of top campus administrators, the names of final candidates had been kept secret.
Earlier this week, Ruth Watkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, spoke at a similar forum. And the other candidate, Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and associate dean for research in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, presided over one last week.
One of the three finalists will replace interim Provost Richard Wheeler, who did not apply for the position.
The provost reports directly to the vice president and chancellor and is second in command on the campus. He or she works with the chancellor on budget planning and management, strategic planning and more. Deans of the colleges, schools and the libraries report to the provost.
People are asked to provide feedback on the candidates by 4 p.m. April 11. More information is available at http://oc.illinois.edu/oc/provost_search.html 
A search committee will discuss the applicants again and meet with Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise, who said she has not set a date on when the new administrator will be named.