Provost & Executive Vice President, February 16, 2010
Dear Colleagues and Students:
Thanks to the Provost Search Committee for its outstanding work in identifying three highly qualified finalists for the position of CSU’s chief academic officer. I’ve now spent time with all three candidates and have considered feedback from the search committee, Deans, Cabinet, faculty, students, staff, and others with an interest in the position. There seems to be a great deal of agreement on the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, and a general feeling that any one of them could take on the job and do it well, with each bringing a different style and unique skill set to the challenges ahead.
In weighing the many different perspectives I’ve heard, as well as my own reactions to the candidates, I’ve tried to consider what it is that Colorado State University most needs in its next provost. The position of provost, as we’ve configured it at CSU, can’t be a single-pitch pitcher. CSU administrators don’t have large staffs — we’re all working administrators who have to be able to dig down into the details, crunch our own numbers, and take a hands-on approach to the day-to-day work of the University.
The provost has to be someone who embodies the highest academic standards of the university. As the individual who holds deans and department chairs (and the president) accountable — and signs off on promotion and tenure decisions — this person has to understand and be willing to defend the academic standards and quality of this institution. The Provost has to be able to make decisions and be the final authority in many cases, while also building strong relationships and collaborating effectively across the institution. I think we at CSU take shared governance more seriously than most institutions, and the Provost must be able to interact in a respectful and engaging way with our students and ASCSU, Faculty Council, Classified Personnel Council, and the Administrative Professional Council.
I need, in this role, a person with the integrity, and courage to provide an effective complement to the skills — and certainly the weaknesses — that I bring to the role of president. A university president has a lot of external pressures that can provide every excuse and an occasional incentive to do the wrong thing. The Provost has to be able come into the President’s Office and say, “You’ve asked me to give you my best advice, and here it is: You’re about to do the wrong thing.” Then, if having been respectfully declined, the Provost needs to be able to stand up at a podium and effectively — and convincingly — articulate the University’s position.
Every position has its learning curve, but CSU exists in a climate where a lot of things are changing very rapidly. Do we have time for someone not familiar with the current state of higher education in Colorado and at CSU to get up to speed? On the other hand, could we benefit in important ways from an outside perspective? Who, in the long run, do I think can learn and grow into the job in the ways that will serve CSU best over the long term?
It’s always tempting when hiring for a position of this importance to compare the candidates to some embodiment of perfection that no one can ever achieve. It’s also tempting, when one finalist is an internal candidate, to question the validity of the search process itself. I don’t want us to do that here. All three of our finalists are incredibly smart and well-qualified. All have pros and cons. And the Search Committee has carried out its work thoroughly and well.
As president and the hiring authority, the decision now falls to me, and I have to think in terms of who can throw most of those pitches I’ve described here. And for that reason, I have offered the position to Dr. Rick Miranda.
Rick has served CSU well for many years and has done an outstanding job as both a department head and dean. During his tenure as interim provost, he’s proven to me that he has the character, ability, and skills that I most need in this position. He understands well the complex challenges facing the University and Colorado higher education overall. He knows that he’s stepping into a job that will involve both representing the University nationally and internationally — and rolling up his sleeves in the trenches to figure out how to deal with the latest crisis or funding dilemma. I am confident that he will bring the same thoughtful, deliberative, and collaborative leadership style to the role of Provost that has earned him the trust and respect of so many of his colleagues here on campus, myself included. Most important, he’s the pitcher I need in the game right now, and I think he will do a great job for CSU.
Thanks to all of you for sharing your insights and advice throughout the search process, and please join me in congratulating and welcoming Rick as our next Provost and Executive Vice President.
Dr. Tony Frank