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18 May Posted by in Administration | Comments

When this blog appears I will have only about a month to go as Provost. There are still a few things to do, but obviously with this end in sight and with the University winding down after Commencement the mood will shift. I have long noted that faculty can relax a bit when many of the students leave, but Provosts keep an eye on reduced faculty presence.

With some awareness of poorly-run transitions in mind, my colleagues in the Provost’s office and I have tried to arrange an orderly process. This involves making as sure as possible that personnel are in place, with no imminent departures of deans, for example. This goal proves harder to reach than I anticipated, for a couple of folks (not deans) did announce fairly recently that they were leaving. The loose ends here aren’t awful, but there is a bit more for the incoming Provost to take care of than I’d planned. Still, most of the “direct reports” are in place and, in my opinion, they are quality people.

Transition most definitely involves meeting with the incoming Provost and briefing him as elaborately as he wishes. He has also received briefing documents from deans and others, and since I know he’s extremely conscientious I suspect he’s drowning in paper. But David Wu and I have had several good meetings. This aspect of the transition is greatly facilitated by his careful preparation and serious approach. I still don’t know exactly how much detail he wants – one can be over-briefed, after all, as opposed to forming impressions on one’s own – but I like to think the hand-off is being appropriately prepared.

The most interesting aspect of the transition has been my hope to finish up or at least move forward a number of projects during the year. I definitely did not intend the year to be a victory lap, and it certainly has not been. We’ve really achieved a lot (in my opinion) – and I stress the we. It’s been a great year for global stuff, as I’ve noted before. We’ve also advanced key elements of our online program, dealt with some academic reorganization – it’s a considerable list. There are a few things still that I hope to put in a bit more finished state, so David Wu does not have to jump in immediately. We’ll see. This has been the most challenging part.

Then of course, particularly in the last few weeks, there has been the ceremonial part. I have been deeply honored, and sometimes a bit embarrassed, at the notice given by many individuals and units on campus. The Provost job is a bit odd (though relationships vary from one institution to the next) in its combination of considerable power and relatively little public notice. So I confess that even though ceremonies make me a bit nervous, I have really enjoyed – and been truly grateful for – this aspect of the season.

Above all, transitions should create situations where the successor can take over smoothly (though of course there will be a few issues) and be in a position to move things farther forward, toward the fabled “next level”. It will be interesting to watch to process from a greater distance.