UI starts search for new provost, considers nominees for search committee


Sydney Laput

Former Provost Cangellaris speaks during Terrell Jermaine visit to campus for a Q&A on the war in Ukraine on April 19.

By Willie Cui, News Editor

At a special meeting on Friday, the University Senate Executive Committee discussed the University’s ongoing search for a new provost and scheduled a meeting of the University Senate on August 8 to vote on nominees for a committee that will be responsible for overseeing the search.

After reviewing several responses for a request for proposals, the University has already decided on a firm that the search committee will be working with, although the University is waiting to hear back from the firm regarding a “tweak” in the search process, according to Chancellor Robert Jones.

“So technically, we’ve already chosen the search firm,” Jones said. “I’m not at liberty to say until they agree to the terms that we put forth. So that decision is essentially made.”

Ever since Andreas Cangellaris, the University’s current provost, announced last month that he will be leaving the University in order to help lead a new university in Saudi Arabia, the University has been preparing for a search process to find a replacement.

At the Friday meeting, Jones expressed his desire to begin the search process around the first week of the fall semester “with the ultimate goal of at least trying to get to a decision making point about the next provost before the end of the calendar year.”

“I’m actually pretty excited about getting that group formed,” Jones said. “And once you give me your names, we can get it formed and get everything structured in a way that we can start working with the search firm.”

The University Senate will select 10 members for the search committee spread out over four categories, with two positions reserved for academic professionals, one for University civil servants, five for faculty members and two for students. Additionally, two to three of the committee members will be appointed by Chancellor Jones. 

“We, for each of the categories, considered what college, school and unit people were in and tried to create balance there,” said John Dallesasse, professor in Grainger and vice chair of the Senate Executive Committee. “We looked at diversity issues and tried to consider all of those.”

According to Dallesasse, the University Senate’s Committee on Committees received 67 total applicants for the search committee and ultimately deciding on a list of 22 nominees to bring before the University Senate.

“We are looking for someone to be a (provost), so we are interviewing them,” Dallesasse said. “But (the candidates) are also evaluating whether they want to come to the University of Illinois, so having people who can present a good representation of the University is also very important in that process.”

Nicholas Burbules, professor in Education and member of the Senate Executive Committee, noted that the search committee needs to be formed before the search can begin as it needs to review the search description used by the firm to find candidates.

“I can tell you, having been on more than one search like this, some search firms can be very aggressive, and saying, ‘Well, we’ve already screened a pool of candidates for you’ — well no, that’s not what the search firm does,” Burbules said. “If you have them working before there was a committee, I think that just inverts the relationship between the two. You want them working in partnership and in parallel with each other, and the first step there is the search description.”

According to Jones, the University is in a position to begin having conversations with the search firm it has selected as soon as it receives an “articulated agreement” back from the firm, and once the University decides on who will be chairing the search committee, that person will act as the search firm’s point of contact for the logistics of the search process. All this, Jones hopes to have in place in the next few weeks.

“We felt we had a lot of interest from almost all of the big search firms, but this is a special search as far as I’m concerned,” Jones said. “We need to make sure we have somebody who has a demonstrated record of searches in the academic enterprise — who has a demonstrated record of not dropping the ball in the middle of a search that causes us a delay.”


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