For the past 100 days, there has been a prowler on campus.

Jessica Boullion
University Provost Teresa Sullivan greets guests at the Michigan Ballroom yesterday afternoon. (JEREMY CHO/Daily)

This person notes the color of the seat cushions in Schorling Auditorium in the School of Education Building. She counts the picnic tables in the School of Information courtyard. All this time, she’s been observing campus, trying to blend in while acclimating herself to her new surroundings.

Yesterday, a welcome reception blew her cover.

After months of “provost prowls,” as she calls her campus walks, new Provost Teresa Sullivan assumed a public profile as the second highest-ranking administrator at the University.

Just as Sullivan enjoyed exploring campus this summer, she encouraged new students to do the same. At the New Student Convocation, she issued the Provost’s Challenge, a campus wide scavenger hunt for first-year students.

The contest, which ended Monday, consisted of 70 questions asking minute details about campus buildings and landmarks, like the seat cushions and picnic tables.

Sullivan admitted that her office received very few completed entries, but added the contest was fun to develop.

The winners will be invited to a reception with Sullivan on Sept. 20 and will receive a prize.

As the University’s chief academic officer, Sullivan oversees both academic and budgetary affairs.

Sullivan came to campus in June from the University of Texas system, where she served as executive vice chancellor for academic affairs since 2002.

University President Mary Sue Coleman spoke briefly about the nationwide provost search that selected Sullivan.

“She’s calm,” Coleman said. “Everybody liked the calmness. I think she has seen it all. I don’t think anything can surprise her.”

But what clinched the deal, Coleman joked, was Sullivan’s call last December requesting Alamo Bowl tickets.

“(I thought), ‘This woman understands how important football is at the University of Michigan’,” Coleman said.

At the reception in the Michigan League Ballroom, Sullivan jovially greeted faculty and administrators with her husband, Law School Prof. Douglas Laycock.

Though Sullivan has spent the last 25 years living in Texas, she met Laycock as an undergraduate at Michigan State University.

Sullivan was trying out for the debate team, which Laycock captained.

“Luckily, I made it,” Sullivan said.

Laycock, a constitutional law expert specializing in religious liberties, joined the law faculty after making the move to Ann Arbor with Sullivan.

“It was such a great opportunity for her, it was really a no-brainer,” Laycock said. “If it was a second-rate law school, (the decision to move) would have been a little harder.”

At the end of the reception, Sullivan said she has been continually impressed by the drive for excellence at the University.

“If we can keep that, nourish that – nothing else will matter,” Sullivan said.

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