Staff Editorial: Macalester needs a "great communicator" in its next Provost

By Staff

As Macalester begins its search for a new provost, the college needs to be looking for someone who can fill the role of a “great communicator.” And such a “great communicator” should plan to stay in office long enough for his or her impact on the college to be felt.The provost’s job is a difficult one.

The person who fills the post must juggle the interests of more than 150 full-time faculty members who espouse as many viewpoints on any given issue. The provost must also convey to the faculty the consensus of other administrators.

The provost, in working with faculty members, must juggle these sometimes feuding interests-often grand ideas for curricula versus a reality tempered by resource constraints-all while upholding a broad vision set forth for the college largely by the president and the Board of Trustees.

As administrators and faculty members search for Macalester’s new provost, a consideration at the top of their minds must be: how long can the provost last?

Recent history has shown that provosts generally do not last too long in their positions. Current Provost Diane Michelfelder will step down after three academic years. Former Provost Elizabeth Ivey stepped down after a term of similar length.

Indeed, the stress of the position can take its toll.

But if Macalester finds the leader it wants, then the college should expect that the leader serve for a term of substantial length-long enough for the impact of the leader to be felt.

It seems more likely that a leader who can last a longer time on the job would be hired from within the college. Before Michelfelder, Biology professor Dan Hornbach served a six-year term after being hired from the faculty ranks.

If Macalester wants a provost who can be a “great communicator” and can last a long time in the position, it would be wise to first search from within the ranks of the faculty or other areas of the college. An internal candidate would know how to negotiate the personality dynamics unique to Macalester and best be able to facilitate communication between sometimes feuding parties.

A provost who can master the art of communication can manage to have a lasting impact on the institution.