University names Courant interim provost

Tuesday, December 13, 2016 - 3:57pm

Paul Courant at his home on October 6th, 2009.

Paul Courant at his home on October 6th, 2009. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

 

Public Policy Prof. Paul Courant will serve as interim provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs of the University of Michigan, University President Mark Schlissel announced in an email to faculty and staff Tuesday afternoon.

Courant — who previously served as provost from 2002 to 2005 — will replace Provost Martha Pollack, who was named Cornell University’s 14th president last month.

Courant’s term as the University’s chief budgetary and academic officer will begin Feb. 1. He served as the dean of libraries from 2007 to 2013, and has previously served as the associate provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs, chair of the Department of Economics and director of the Institute of Public Policy Studies.

Courant earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Swarthmore College and a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University.

“I am grateful to Dr. Courant for being willing to join our administrative ranks once again and serve in this important capacity,” Schlissel wrote in the email. “My goal is to have the successful candidate in place by the start of the new academic year.”

Pollack has served as provost since 2013, overseeing all teaching and research in each of the University’s 19 schools and colleges. Her term at Cornell is slated to begin on April 17, 2017, though her current contract — approved by the Board of Regents in December 2014 — originally extended through the summer of 2018.

Schlissel announced the formation of a provost search committee at a Nov. 21 Senate Assembly meeting, and told The Michigan Daily in an interview last week he will personally lead the nationwide search for Pollack’s permanent replacement to begin in January.

“For the interim position, we’re looking for an internal candidate with experience,” he said. “Stability is important in senior positions, but you can’t pass up great opportunities. We have stability above and below the level of provost.”

Following the announcement of Pollack’s appointment by the Cornell Board of Regents, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald noted in an interview with the Daily that her experience as both a budgetary and an academic official prepared her for the role of president at Cornell.

“She’s been a strong leader for academics and for the budget,” Fitzgerald said. “The provost at the University of Michigan has a somewhat unique role where the chief academic officer is also the chief budget officer. She balances her commitment to academics with being a good steward of the budget well, while keeping a college education affordable and blazing pathways with new academic initiatives. That’s quite a sweet spot.”

The Board of Regents formally commended Pollack for her service at their monthly meeting last Thursday.

“You are my favorite president-elect in the country right now,” joked Regent Mark Bernstein (D) in his speech commemorating Pollack. “In her time here, Provost Pollack has spearheaded major academic initiatives.”

Pollack joined the University in 2000 as a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, rising to the role of associate department chair in 2004 — a position she held until 2007. Prior to assuming the role as the vice provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs in 2010, Pollack served as the dean of the School of Information.

During her tenure as provost, Pollack was an advocate for technological innovation in the classroom. In September 2015, Pollack remarked on the importance of committing $100 million to the Michigan Institute for Data Science.

“Data science has become a fourth approach to scientific discovery, in addition to experimentation, modeling and computation,” Pollack said in 2015. “To spur innovation while providing focus, the DSI will launch challenge initiatives in four critical interdisciplinary areas that build on our existing strengths in transportation research, health sciences, learning analytics and social science research.”

In addition to promoting the use of data science in the classroom, Pollack also helped to spearhead the University’s Third Century Initiative, a plan to invest $50 million over five years to improve student learning.

Last month, Fitzgerald noted these initiatives will remain intact following her departure.

“At this point, the things that Provost Pollack has introduced have become significant University commitments,” Fitzgerald said. “They are moving forward, and I don’t see there being an interruption with an interim leader, or a leadership change.”