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Provost Search Committee Update

August 19, 2020

Dear Students and Colleagues at SLU,  

I'm writing to you all on behalf of the Search Committee that President Pestello has established to help him to appoint a permanent Provost at SLU. I want to update you on our progress, and to explain how we hope that the SLU community will be engaged in the search.   

This is a great opportunity for all of us at SLU to find a person who (in the words of the Faculty Manual) will serve as "the chief academic officer of the University." But more than that, we hope that whoever is appointed to this position will be able to help us to collectively shape our academic and intellectual identity in the future. The job is, very clearly, an exacting one, but it’s also an exciting position, that will have many attractions for the right individual. Our task is to help find that individual, and to convince them that SLU is the place that they would want to work.   

The Search Committee has established a time-line for our work, which you can see on the Committee's website, where we’ll be posting updates on the search.   

At the moment we're gathering information from faculty, staff, and students about what you think the priorities should be for the new provost, and the ways in which you might describe the ideal candidate for the position. Our process includes: 

All this information will be used to construct a "Leadership Profile" for the position, which is the key document that we'll be using to attract candidates, and to make an assessment of their merits and suitability. This document will be drafted by the consultants who are assisting us in the search (see below), and then discussed and revised as necessary by the Search Committee, before being released. The "Leadership Profile" will obviously be designed to attract applicants, but it will also try to give an honest and truthful overview of the University, and the job itself.   

Our plan is to interview a "long list" of candidates for the job in the late Fall, and then have a shorter list of "finalists" visit us early in the Spring, when there'll be an opportunity for you to meet with them. Your views will help us to shape our recommendations to the President, who will make the final decision on the appointment. Our hope is that the Provost will begin working with us in the summer of 2021.   

The Consultants who are helping us are WittKieffer -- an executive search consultancy based in Chicago, but with a presence throughout the US as well as overseas. The WittKieffer team is being led by a senior partner of the firm, Dennis Barden, who is being assisted by his colleagues Melissa Fincher, Sarah Miller, and Bree Liddell. I'm attaching their biographies to this email. Dennis and his team know SLU very well – they recently assisted us on the Search for a Dean of the Business School, and Bree is a SLU alum. You'll be able to meet with some of the WittKieffer team as they attend the various open meetings that we'll be holding.  

Finally, three principles are guiding us in the search. These are: 1) diversity and inclusion, 2) transparency and confidentiality, and 3) our Catholic and Jesuit mission and identity.   

  1.  The President has urged us to consider most carefully the issue of groups that are currently under-represented, particularly at a senior level, at SLU. To this end, we'll be thinking about where and how we advertise this position, and the ways in which we frame the search process itself. All members of the search committee will be undertaking training together in this area under the guidance of Dr. Jonathan Smith, who is Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement.   
  1.  Transparency and confidentiality might seem to be mutually exclusive of one another, but we hope to steer a course in which the process of the search is as open as we can possibly make it, while we respect the confidentiality of applicants who will, in no small measure, be investing their professional reputations with us in applying for the position. And, of course, the search will become entirely public in the final stages when we invite candidates to meet with the SLU community in general.   
  1.  The President has also required us to keep at the forefront of our minds our mission and identity as a Jesuit university. He feels that it is vital that anybody appointed to the position understands who we are, what we are, and what we hope to become. To this end, we are extremely fortunate to have Fr. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J. on the search committee. As well as being a member of the SLU Board of Trustees, Fr. Sheeran is the former President of Regis University, and he has served as President of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.   

The Search committee will be meeting regularly every other Friday morning throughout this semester. We’d welcome any thoughts or questions that you might have about the search. You can e-mail us at provostsearch@slu.edu and you can also e-mail the WittKieffer team directly at sluprovost@wittkieffer.com.  

Best wishes, 

Jonathan Sawday, Ph.D. 
Department of English
Chair, Provost Search Committee