Provost search committee announced as Pat Farrell steps down

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Provost Pat Farrell poses for the camera. A search committee for the new provost was announced as Farrell plans to take a sabbatical and step down.(Courtesy of Lehigh University Website)

There will be a search committee tasked with selecting a replacement for Provost Pat Farrell, who is stepping down and taking a sabbatical on June 30 after what will be his 11th year in the position, President John Simon announced in an Aug. 29 email.

Shalinee Kishore, who serves as the Iacocca Chair and associate director of the Institute for Cyber Physical Infrastructure and Energy, is heading the search committee. Kishore is also a professor of electric and computer.

The search committee consists of 18 members who represent different constituencies throughout Lehigh. Among the members are college deans ⁠— like Whitney Witt, the inaugural dean of the College of Health ⁠— associate professors, representatives from the Board of Trustees and the undergraduate and graduate Student Senate presidents. 

“The breadth of the university is supposed to be reflected along with key stakeholders and constituents that the provost would interact with,” Kishore said. 

Julia Pardee, ‘21, undergraduate Student Senate president, is a member of the search committee. 

She said one of the biggest qualities that she would like to see in a future provost is for them to be an effective communicator.

“By being a part of this committee, we’ll see how candidates react to a student being involved in the search process,” Pardee said. “It’s nice to see the administration prioritizing the needs of students.”

The search committee is organized by Simon, and its members are expected to help with the logistics and scheduling candidates. As head of the search committee, Kishore will interact directly with Simon and other campus leaders to identify the attributes and qualities desired in the new provost. 

Kishore said they want to communicate those qualities to the committee, ensuring they use those metrics to evaluate potential candidates. 

“We are looking for a dynamic, forward-thinking academic leader,” Kishore said. “Someone who has demonstrated leadership strength and the ability to make tough decisions, along with ensuring that they promote academic excellence and are committed to diversity and inclusion.” 

The new provost will have a critical role to direct and facilitate the university’s expansion plans, particularly the Path to Prominence and Go: The Campaign for Lehigh.

“Traditionally, the provost is the chief academic officer, and there are a lot of responsibilities that come with that,” Kishore said. “They will implement the vision of Path to Prominence and play a key role in implementing the Go-Campaign.”

Kishore said there are many components to this, and the new provost will make decisions to achieve administrative goals and initiatives by using the available resources.

Farrell has played a substantial role in starting to initiate these goals,

“Big efforts like these are group and team efforts,” Farrell said. “It’s hard to figure out what to do with this stuff. How do we make it happen? How do we get the resources? How do we get people excited about the idea? Both are challenging, and both require engagement around the idea. Persistence is what makes it happen.” 

Farrell intends to do research during his sabbatical and return to teaching, rather than administration, afterwards. He has not concretely set his research plans, but he said he is interested in learning about how rapidly-changing student demographics will affect the way professors teach. 

He said stepping down as provost is bittersweet.

“11 years is a very long time, but it gave me a lot of opportunities to make changes and a chance to make Lehigh a better university,” Farrell said. “It’s a good time to get someone else who will see things differently and have a different approach.” 

Kishore said she hopes the new provost will be named sometime during the spring  2020 semester. 

Pardee said the new provost should understand how faculty interact with students and bring along research opportunities.

“I would like to see the new provost keep the student-centered nature of the university at heart,” she said.

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