EDITORIAL: Administration changes offer opportunity for advancement

At first glance, the upcoming leadership changes in the College of Arts and Sciences may seem like fairly routine bureaucratic shuffling. The creation of the position of a University provost and the personnel changes that accompany it, however, represent a clear shift in University strategy and present a genuine opportunity to revitalize the College of Arts and Sciences.

John R. Johannes, vice president for Academic Affairs, will resign after 15 years of service at Villanova. During his tenure, Villanova expanded from a respected but regional school to the nationally recognized university that it remains today. 

Rev. Kail Ellis, O.S.A., will be temporarily appointed vice president of Academic Affairs in his absence. Ellis has overseen numerous advancements as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, including the creation of an environmental studies program and the internationalization of the offered programs. As dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Father Ellis was responsible for more than 3,000 students and the largest faculty at the University. Father Ellis is well-qualified to serve as VPAA until the appointment of a university provost.

Johannes and Ellis will both eventually return to the classroom at Villanova, but their tenure as administrators is nearing an end. The entire Villanova community owes both Johannes and Ellis an enormous debt for their decades of service to Villanova.

As University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., said, however, change is good. The creation of the position of university provost will elevate the chief academic officer of the University with control over faculty development and hiring. The elevation of Father Ellis to the temporary position of vice president for Academic Affairs also necessitates a new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Associate Dean of First-Year Studies John Doody will hold the position temporarily, but a nationwide search will be undertaken for candidates for both positions. 

The possibility of a new chief academic officer and a new arts and sciences dean presents the University with an exciting opportunity for revitalization at its highest ranks. Though Johannes and Ellis have served the University with distinction, they would probably agree that every institution could benefit from fresh blood and an outside perspective. 

It is critically important that the new University provost and Arts and Sciences dean have a strong working relationship with Donohue. Without their close cooperation, the changes necessary to modernize and enhance the arts and sciences school will be impossible. 

The hiring of a provost and a new arts and sciences dean will allow Villanova to continue to follow its Strategic Plan, which calls for increasing the national visibility of the liberal arts school and an enhancement of its image through faculty hiring and revamped curriculums. These management changes are an important step in this process, and they will ensure that the University stays true to its Strategic Plan and continues to enhance its national profile.