President C.L. Max Nikias announced a national search for USC’s next senior vice president for academic affairs and provost in a letter to USC faculty, staff and students Monday. Current Provost Elizabeth Garrett was named the next president of Cornell University on Sept. 30. In his letter, Nikias emphasized the importance of the appointment for USC’s future.
“I believe this appointment is particularly critical at this juncture in USC’s history, as we are in the midst of taking the university into the ranks of undisputed academically elite universities,” he said in the letter.
In the USC administrative hierarchy, the vice president of academic affairs is the second-ranking administrator to the president. As chief academic officer, his or her responsibilities include gathering reports from each of the university’s deans and provosts. The vice president for academic affairs also oversees several university divisions such as Student Affairs, Libraries and Information Technology Services.
Given the significant responsibilites of the position, Nikias stressed the importance of finding the right candidate for the position in the letter.
“This person will play a pivotal role in USC’s continued ascent,” he said in the letter.
Nikias’ letter announced the appointment a 13-member faculty advisory committee to carry out the search. The committee members, who were selected by Nikias, include chairs of various USC departments. Among those chosen for the committee were distinguished poet and English Department Chair David St. John and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry.
USC is also looking outside the university itself for help in the search process. The letter stated that the school is employing Isaacson, Miller, a Boston-based search firm with offices in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, to assist with the hiring process.
Hortensia Amaro, dean’s professor in social work and preventative medicine and one of the members of the committee, echoed Nikias in emphasizing the importance of the search.
“We need another top-class provost,” Amaro said.
Amaro was unable to provide specific details due to the confidentiality of the hiring process.
Ellis Meng, professor of biomedical and electrical engineering, was also selected to serve on the committee. Meng, featured as one of MIT Technology Review’s “Innovators Under 35” in 2009, said she was honored by the appointment.
“It’s such a great honor. The provost is a really important position. It’ll be difficult to find someone who can fill Elizabeth Garrett’s shoes,” Meng said.
Elizabeth Garrett was formally installed as vice president for academic affairs and provost in 2011. Prior to her appointment at USC, she was selected by former President George W. Bush to serve on a bipartisan Tax Reform Panel.
Nikias’ email also asked students for recommendations for candidates to fill the position.
Despite Nikias’ overture, some students said that the search is best left to those most qualified for it.
“I think the ultimate decision should lie with the selection committee, since they know more of what was required, in terms of the skills of a high-level administrator,” said Elaine Krebs, a senior majoring in health and humanity and marine and environmental biology.
The letter invited those with suggestions and potential nominations for the appointment to submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.