Leadership Transition, 5/18/20


You’ve now received Bill Landis’s message about leadership transitions, which included information about the appointment of Jessica Lakin as Provost and Ryan Hinrichs as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies. Please join me in congratulating them on these appointments. Drew is fortunate to have individuals who are so capable, thoughtful, well-prepared, and committed to the institution to step into these roles. I have complete confidence in their ability to continue to foster a strong, coordinated academic leadership team that will help to guide the institution through these challenging times.

I want to comment briefly on why the decision was made to split the Provost and Dean positions. Three years ago, a small team led a process to assess our academic structure with the goal of figuring out how to move the institution to a functional provost model with coordinated academic leadership and more efficient sharing of resources. Since that time, the entire academic leadership team has worked diligently to realize the benefits of the re-creation of the Provost position and the combined Provost/Dean structure. With a coordinated and appropriately strong academic voice at the institutional leadership table, we developed and executed a shared vision for academic affairs. Our collaborative efforts have led to better experiences and more opportunities for our graduate and undergraduate students, more coordinated work to meet faculty needs, and efficiencies that allowed for restructuring in key areas to meet operational and financial challenges.

As part of our regular assessment of decision-making, structure, policy, and practice, it has also been increasingly clear that structures can’t remain static when demands and circumstances change; in fact, our internal leadership meetings regularly include our own assessments of what is working as well as discussion about feedback from key faculty committees about what requires adjustment. Our bi-annual leadership team “retreat” meetings have consistently focused on what works about the current structure and where there are opportunities for continued growth. As part of these assessments, last summer, President Baenninger and I began discussing possible structural changes, including the splitting of the Provost and Dean of Arts and Sciences position. Given that we were already in these conversations, my leaving provided the perfect opportunity to disaggregate the two positions. When MaryAnn initiated conversations with Jessica about taking the Provost position, which I completely supported, Jessica also raised the need to split the positions. Fortunately, we also all agreed that we had a stellar candidate for the Dean position in Ryan.

We are confident that splitting these positions at this time is the right decision, and it will save additional expense because Jessica’s current Associate Provost position will not be replaced. But Jessica and Ryan are also both aware that there is a need for continued conversations, internally and with others, as we re-evaluate each position’s responsibilities and the associated workflows. Just as we needed extensive faculty governance engagement to make the changes to academic structure over the past three years, the same will be important as we determine how exactly this altered leadership model will now be lived. Jessica and Ryan, and the full leadership team, will be having these conversations in an ongoing way, and anticipate asking for your engagement about these changes in the very near future.

There will be many opportunities in the coming weeks and months to engage with the new leadership team in academic affairs, and to discuss the ways in which splitting the Provost and Dean positions will impact ongoing work. Most importantly, I am confident that Jessica and Ryan’s appointments put Drew’s academic leadership in the strongest of possible hands.


Dr. Debra J. Liebowitz
Dean, College of Liberal Arts & Caspersen School of Graduate Studies
Professor, International Relations and Women’s & Gender Studies

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