Harris Search Associates is a leading national firm in the field of higher education Provost search assignments and have successfully conducted over 900 search assignments on behalf of the foremost research and comprehensive universities. Each year we conduct a number of Provost searches for a variety of institutions. We have witnessed a stark change in the necessary requirements/skillset of the modern higher education Provost.
Compounding the challenges of the Provost’s job is what we observe as the “cascading” of responsibilities and duties down through the administrative hierarchy of most universities. Whereas Presidents once in the not-too-distant past actually administered their institutions on a daily basis, many now spend much of their time off campus and engaged with external stakeholders such as potential donors; service on local, state and national commissions and task forces; and lobbying state legislators who can no longer be expected to defer and fulfill the needs of higher education.
As a result, Provosts are, in effect, the chief operations officer of many campuses not just in name but in fact. As such, Provosts are responsible for all facets of their institutions and the other senior administrators report to Provosts. Increasingly, therefore, the knowledge and skills required to be effective in the role exceed purely academic matters and entail experience that goes well beyond that which derives from education and scholarship, the traditional domains from which provosts traditionally come.
Now, when we recruit the contemporary higher education Provost, we must attract an outstanding, enterprise-level leader who will be inextricably linked to the strategic operations of an institution. Today’s successful Provost must be a superb communicator, aligned with the institution’s president and governing board while simultaneously serving as a champion for professors, students, and staff members, celebrating individual and collective successes.
As such, we continue to track the next generation of emerging talent and are known and trusted by the national leaders Provost search committees hope to attract. This is then complemented by an active research and recruitment strategy to ensure a robust, diverse candidate pool is presented for review, and the assignment is successfully completed efficiently.