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Paxson seeks diverse pool of provost apps

Tuesday forum allows med students to discuss ideal qualities for next provost

Discussion about priorities for Provost Mark Schlissel’s P’15 successor, including fundraising and the implementation of President Christina Paxson’s strategic plan, stirred an Alpert Medical School Student Senate forum on the provost search process at the Med School Tuesday night.

About 15 medical students attended the forum — moderated by Paxson and members of the provost search committee — which gave students the opportunity to ask questions and offer their opinions on ideal qualities for the new provost.

When Paxson asked for a concise definition of what the provost does, no student offered a response. Paxson said this response was not surprising, for the provost’s role is less publicly known, though the role is “incredibly important” to University governance.

“The provost is the chief academic adviser of the University,” with responsibility over developing new programs, making tenure recommendations and chairing the Academic Priorities and University Resources Committees, Paxson said.

Paxson said the search committee is considering internal and external applicants, adding that each type of candidate brings certain advantages.

“An internal search means you can move more quickly ­­­— you don’t have to take a year getting to know everyone’s names,” Paxson said. But “a national search builds a more diverse pool,” she added.

Schlissel also serves as a professor of biology at Brown and has spent most of his career as an academic in the life sciences. As provost, he helped lead the the creation of a separate School of Public Health last year and the Med School’s transition to its new Jewelry District space.

Prospective candidates “don’t have to know how to treat kidney disease,” but should have the capability “to balance the business- and mission-driven aspects of the enterprise,” Paxson said. Provosts can foster knowledge, community service and the training of the next generation of physicians, but “you also have to pay the bills,” Paxson said.

Honora Burnett MD’15, president of the Med Student Senate, said she is concerned about a lack of diversity among provost applicants.

When she was on the search committee to select the new dean of the Med School, there were only two women and two people of diverse backgrounds among the hundreds of applicants, Burnett said.

The higher tiers of academic administration continue to be dominated by white people and men, Paxson said. But the University’s nationwide search for the next provost creates a more diverse pool, she added.

The new provost will continue to maintain a close relationship with Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Jack Elias to turn Med School priorities into fundraising opportunities, Paxson said.

One medical student asked how the new provost will address Paxson’s vision for the Med School, articulated in her strategic plan.

“I would like to see its standing continue to rise,” as the Med School stimulates more research and partnerships with hospitals, Paxson said.



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