University to search for provost

Daina Amorosano

Some shuffling among administrators and a national search for a permanent provost and a new dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences will commence when current Vice President of Academic Affairs John R. Johannes steps down on May 31.

When Johannes decided to return to the classroom after 15 years in his current position, University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., had some decisions to make as to “where to go from here.”

“Part of our strategic plan is to increase our national reputation and the sense of how people know us,” Donohue said. 

To move forward with those goals, Donohue and his cabinet have embarked on a national search for a provost, a position never-before held at the University, which will encompass the current role of VPAA.

“At larger institutions, the title is provost,” Donohue said. “But every provost seems to have a different job description.”

At large state schools, the president is more of an external position, according to Donohue. 

In some places where there is a University president and a provost, everyone reports to the provost, who then reports to the president.

“I don’t think we’ll do that,” Donohue said. “I like being engaged in campus. I’m not interested in being an external president.”

He currently has nine vice presidents who report to him.

Donohue expects the new provost will play a critical role as the chief academic officer of the University, responsible for faculty development and hiring.

“We’re going to start a national search,” Donohue said, though the position is also open to internal candidates. 

The University is also in the midst of a search for a dean of the law school –– a process that has been going on for months.

“You can’t break the bank,” Donohue said, noting the expense of hiring a search firm.

“I realize we need to take our time with this,” Donohue said. “I want to figure out what would work best for Villanova’s needs. It will take time to find the right person.”

In the meantime, someone needs to act as VPAA, Donohue said.

In choosing someone to fill Johannes’ position, Donohue said Rev. Kail Ellis, O.S.A., dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, stood out for his extensive experience. 

Ellis heads the largest college, which consists of over 3,000 undergraduates and over 400 faculty members, has almost 25 years of experience and has filled different roles at the University, including directing part-time studies and the summer school, according to Donohue. All deans report to the VPAA, who is also in charge of all curricular changes.

“Father Ellis knows what’s going on,” Donohue said. “The deans [of all colleges] already meet [with each other] regularly.”

With Ellis moving to VPAA, Associate Dean of First-Year Studies John Doody agreed to temporarily assume the position of dean of arts and sciences, though the timeframe for finding a provost and a new dean is indefinite as of now.

“This [dean of arts and sciences] is the best job at the University,” Ellis said. “You have the opportunity to explore new programs, develop new majors.”

The addition of the

The addition of the provost position will also necessitate a new permanent dean for the arts and sciences school, according to Donohue. Once the position is filled, dissolving the VPAA position, Ellis will not retire but plans to return to teaching in the political science department.

“Doody’s been here a long time and is familiar with the college,” Donohue said. “He was willing to step in.” 

During his tenure as dean, Ellis has introduced new programs in environmental studies and developed many of the interdisciplinary programs, such as Latin American studies. Ellis both developed and expanded the internationalization of the programs offered at the University.

“But it’s time for new people to come in, take over,” Ellis said.

Donohue echoed these sentiments.

“It’s an opportunity for Arts & Sciences,” Donohue said.

Doody, who has worked at Villanova since 1969, has been an administrator for 33 of his years at the University.

“I understand and know the University,” Doody said. “I can bring a wealth of experience [to the position].”

Doody already has a few goals in sight for when he assumes the position of dean of Arts and Sciences, including improving the advising program for the college, which Ellis has been working on for five years. 

Site visits to peer schools such as Boston College, Georgetown and Fordham will be a part of the improvement. 

Doody will travel to Notre Dame next month to see how its advising program compares to Villanova’s.

Doody will work with the associate deans to implement the new core curriculum, which has been undergoing revisions since 2007 and is expected to be in place for students who enter in fall 2011.

“As associate dean of first-year students, I was already working on this,” Doody said. “We are close to a consensus on what the new core should look like.”

Doody hopes to work closely with the other colleges on the new core to support their needs and develop good will.

He will also be in charge of handling several proposals that are in the works for improving major offerings in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“I will continue working with Father Ellis,” Doody said. “We have a long working relationship. He’s been here since 1986, and with him as VPAA, we will be able to continue working together.”