Provost to step down in spring

By Matthew Stone

Plans have yet to emerge for a search to replace outgoing Provost Diane Michelfelder, who will step down from her administrative post at the end of the academic year and assume a tenured faculty position in the Philosophy department.President Brian Rosenberg announced Michelfelder’s resignation last Friday in the campus Bulletin.

If the search for a new provost follows the model of previous searches, including the one that led to Michelfelder’s hire more than two years ago, a search committee will form in the coming months. The college aims to have a new provost in place this coming summer, Rosenberg said. The college could consider both internal and external candidates in the search.

While she declined to share details about what led to her decision to step down, Michelfelder told The Mac Weekly that she looks forward to remaining at the college, albeit in a new position.

“I am looking forward to joining my colleagues in Philosophy and to having an opportunity to teach the students whose remarkable talents and ability to work at a high level of intellectual inquiry were so much a part of what brought me to this campus in the first place,” Michelfelder wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly.

Before she steps down, she has “a lot of work still to do [as Provost],” Michelfelder said.

Over the past two decades, the college has a hired a mix of internal candidates already employed by the college and external candidates from other universities, like Michelfelder, to the provost’s position.

Michelfelder came to Macalester after serving as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana State University. She had also chaired the department of Languages and Philosophy at Utah State University and the Philosophy department at California Polytechnic State in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Elizabeth Ivey was the last Macalester provost before Michelfelder to be hired to the post from another university. She arrived at Macalester in Jan. 1990 from Smith College in Amherst, Mass., and remained in the position until Aug. 1993-approximately three academic years, about the same length as Michelfelder’s tenure in the office.

After Ivey’s tenure, Biology professor Dan Hornbach stepped into the position until 1995 and again from 1999 until 2005. Mathematics professor emeritus Wayne Roberts served in the post from 1995 until 1999. Both were internal candidates who had been teaching at the college when hired to the provost’s position.

Faculty members this week agreed that stepping into the provost’s role from the outside presents distinct challenges.

“As an institution, Macalester is a bit like a small town, with complex histories and networks and unwritten rules and ways of working that do not necessarily make themselves known,” said Humanities and Media and Cultural Studies professor Clay Steinman, who has served on a Provost search committee.

Hornbach, who has returned to his position in the biology department since stepping down as provost, said that knowing the college more intimately before becoming provost proved an advantage for him. However, an outside candidate could find some advantages in starting at a new place with a “clean slate,” Hornbach added.

“I don’t know that any single model, outside or inside, is best, just different,” he said.

The Provost, who also carries the title Dean of the Faculty, serves as the administration’s representative to the faculty and the faculty’s representative to the administration, according to Hornbach.

The provost is heavily involved in changing curriculum, making academic hires and reviewing the cases of faculty members up for tenure.

“You want to find someone who can be that chief faculty member.and someone who has had that administrative experience,” Hornbach said, “someone who can straddle both of those worlds.”

Steinman said he would like to see a new provost who understands Macalester’s dynamics or someone who puts forth an effort to understand them.

“They have to be unusually good listeners, learners and sensitive to interaction and ways of doing things,” he said.