In front of more than 350 attendees at Town and Gown, Charles “Chip” Zukoski was installed as USC’s provost Wednesday afternoon. In a speech addressed to faculty and leaders, Zukoski spoke about his plans to lead the University in tackling local and global problems.
“The provost is the person who’s responsible for the intellectual vitality of our university,” said President Carol Folt before welcoming Zukoski to the stage. “It’s the provost’s job to help create and nurture the very best environment for teaching and learning to thrive.”
To the Daily Trojan Wednesday, Folt referred to Zukoski as the “right person for the right time at this institution.” During her speech, she referred to him as her closest partner and said his personal qualities make him the best man for the job. Of over 300 applicants, Zukoski was the unanimous first choice for the position, she said.
“He has a wonderful sense of humor, and he’s very candid,” she said. “He doesn’t sugarcoat truth. He’s a lot of fun. We all have great conversations already and have developed a warm, collaborative relationship amongst the leadership team. But what I think I value the most is that he treats everybody with respect. And he is a great listener. I think he’s exactly the person we were looking for.”
With 35 years of experience in higher education, Zukoski recognized USC as a global leader and a University “poised for change.”
“In characterizing what we see in society around us, we often use ‘challenges’ as a code word for forced, uncomfortable and, perhaps, undesirable change,” he said. “I take a different perspective. I see opportunity.”
Zukoski said the University should also use its resources to tackle global issues such as climate change.
“On climate change, we know how to reduce CO2 emissions,” he said. “We know how to alter land usage to produce better foods. We know how to alter water usage to save streams. Certainly, we need better understanding and technologies to make doing these things easier. But many of the technologies exist, and yet we are making very slow progress. USC can lead the way through the social, cultural and political barriers.”
Zukoski also said USC is facing “challenging financial times” and that the University will have to adjust. However, he said he sees that as a catalyst for change at USC.
“With the abundance that is around us, I encourage us not to be bogged down by notions of scarcity but to embrace the ‘and’ proposition: That we can work within and expand the financial framework that constrains us, and we can accelerate into a fabulous future where USC continues to be known for astonishing programs in research, education, health care and creative endeavors,” he said.
Zukoski emphasized his belief in observing, listening and setting priorities as a leader.
“I believe in processes of continual renewal and the excitement of shaping programs that deliver value,” he added. “I believe the priorities should be values-based and that decisions should be consistent and predictable.”
Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni commended the new provost’s background as a research scientist and his approach to leadership.
“What he did really well today is that he set a vision for the University as a whole,” Soni told the Daily Trojan. “He challenged us to think about how we could get to that. And that vision was inspiring.”
Zukoski replaced interim provost Elizabeth Graddy, who served in the position after Michael Quick stepped down in April. Zukoski worked at the University at Buffalo as both provost and executive vice president for academic affairs since 2012. Before then, he served as vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Zukoski was accompanied Wednesday by his family, including his wife Barbara Morgan and his two sons.