Interim Provost and Vice-President Academic and Research (Provost) Jeff Ollerhead has applied to permanently fill Mount Allison’s provost position.
According to the position profile, the provost “is responsible for the effective planning and management of the academic affairs of the university.” The provost is also expected to develop, maintain and support “teaching and research excellence, quality academic services and an environment conducive to effective learning and personal growth for both students and faculty.”
Former Provost Karen Grant went on medical leave last year, after which she resigned from her position.
Grant was the provost during the collective bargaining negotiations in 2014. During this time, the faculty council voted 60-1 in support of a motion of non-confidence in Grant and University President Robert Campbell.
After Grant’s departure, Campbell appointed Ollerhead as an immediate replacement while the search for a new Provost took place. Ollerhead has 10 years of experience as dean of science and was a professor in the geography and environment department.
Because Campbell’s term as president will end at the end of the 2017-18 school year, Campbell and the selection committee he assembled decided not to put out an external call for applications. Campbell said it would be difficult to find an external provost if the incumbent didn’t know who their boss, the president, would be for most of their term.
Considering the unusual circumstances, the incumbent will only hold the position for two years, from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2019, whereas the provost usually serves a four-year term.
Campbell put out a call for internal applications to fill the provost position on Oct. 3. Ollerhead was the only applicant.
On Tuesday, a public meeting was held at which Ollerhead presented his priorities as provost to the university community. Members of the selection committee and of the Mt. A community were then invited to ask him questions.
Ollerhead said Indigenous knowing would be one of his priorities. “As the provost, I take some personal responsibility for thinking about how to guide and move that agenda along,’’ he said. ‘’I see it as my responsibility to take the year of Indigenous knowing and make it into the decade of Indigenous knowing.’’
Ollerhead said there are many ways of doing this, starting with hiring Indigenous staff and faculty, ‘’decolonizing’’ our existing curriculum and implementing new courses.
When asked about his position on fossil fuel divestment, Ollerhead said, ‘’I support the goal [of environmental sustainability], [but] I don’t know that I support the mechanism.’’ Divest organizers said they do not believe it is possible to Indigenize the university without divesting.
Ollerhead listed supporting experiential learning, maintaining the viability of academic programs and diversifying faculty as other priorities.
When asked by a community member why he wanted the job, Ollerhead said, “It’s not that I don’t want the job…but it’s not the job I was seeking. But I’m willing to do it.’’
Brad Walters, a geography professor, asked Ollerhead about his leadership style and its accompanying strengths and weaknesses. “My biggest strength is that I’m not wedded to any particular solution,’’ he said. “I’m more interested in outcomes and less interested in how I get there. That does sometimes get me into trouble.’’
He went on to talk about consultation. “I have a strength around consultation, and I have a weakness around losing patience with consultation,’’ he said.
According to MASU Vice-President Academic Mary Emma MacNeil, who sits on the selection committee, the committee will practise Mt. A’s standard hiring procedure. This typically includes a one-on-one interview with the candidate, a public forum like the one held on Tuesday and a debriefing after the forum. “The evaluation process is quite confidential for the protection of the candidate,” MacNeil said.
Campbell said Ollerhead will be evaluated in terms of the priorities he presented at the public meeting, as well as on “the committee’s understanding of the complexities of the position, the burdens of work, the context of things.’’
Campbell said the selection committee has not discussed Indigenous knowing in any of their meetings.