Firm hired to host forums for dialogue for new provost search

By Jess Hodge | 9/14/16 9:25pm

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GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Provost Gayle Davis speaks at the Holton-Hooker Learning and Living Center dedication on Friday, August 26, 2016.

by Kevin Sielaff / Grand Valley Lanthorn

When Gayle Davis announced her retirement for July of 2017, the search was on to find a replacement.

This has proved hard to do, as Davis has been the provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs at Grand Valley State University for almost 15 years.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Provost Gayle Davis speaks at the Holton-Hooker Learning and Living Center dedication on Friday, August 26, 2016.

GVSU enlisted the help of Issacson, Miller to help search for the perfect candidates who would fit in at the culture of the university.

Issacson, Miller is a “national executive search firm devoted to recruiting exceptional leaders for mission-driven organizations.”

The firm held two open forums for GVSU faculty and staff Sept. 13 and 14 to voice their opinions on qualities the new provost should posses and what the firm should look for when searching for candidates.

The first forum on Sept. 13 was moderated by Daniel Rodas and Greg Esposito, vice president and managing associate for Issacson, Miller, respectively.

Rodas and Esposito prompted faculty and staff in attendance to ask themselves where they would like to see the university in five years and what things they would like to preserve far into the future.

Zachary Kurmas, associate professor in the school of computing and information systems, said he wants to see the good relationship with the provost's office continue.

“We’re not unionized, and I rarely hear that brought up,” Kurmas said. “I rarely hear people say ‘boy, we need stronger representation’ and I think that’s a testament to the workings we have with the administration we have at this point. I would hate to see that change.”

Faculty governance was a common theme among faculty and staff members at the forum. Many audience members echoed the thoughts that the commitment Davis had to shared faculty governance was crucial for the next provost to have.

“I serve on the faculty senate and both the presence of our current provost at our regular senate meetings and her willingness to listen to us and work collaboratively (are) vital,” said Jonathan Hodge, GVSU mathematics professor. “We really want our students to be successful, but we also see it in the way we support each other as colleagues and the way we work together to accomplish the mission at the university.”

The second forum, also with Rodas and Esposito guiding the discussion, on Sept. 14 was similar to the first. Members of the discussion touched on the importance of how the new provost would push the university forward with the ever-changing needs of students.

Bart Merkle, former dean of students and professor in the college of education, spoke about the culture of GVSU and his hopes that the next provost will not only continue the culture but improve it as well.

Merkle said GVSU has a “big, small school feel” which is different than other schools of similar size.

“That’s part of why our undergraduates come here, because we have a focus on teaching and we have a tremendous faculty that provide the kind of experience that a student could get at some of the finest small private colleges,” he said. “(Yet) we have the resources and facilities of a much bigger place.”

Merkle also emphasized the important of collaboration and intentionality of good decision-making between the new provost and faculty and staff.

“I think the new provost has to bring intentionality to build on what we do really well,” Merkle said. “We’re a place that values teaching, we value scholarship, we value our students and I hope that the new provost comes in (and) really tries to understand all of that.”

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