When University Provost Teresa Sullivan was announced as the next president of the University of Virginia yesterday, it left many on campus wondering who would fill the shoes she will leave behind.
Sullivan is set to assume her new role at UVA on Aug. 1, having been offered a 5-year contract with the school. In a series of interviews following yesterday’s announcement, University officials described Sullivan as having an innate understanding of both budgetary and academic affairs — skills administrators and regents alike described as necessary for her successor.
And while officials say they’re confident that a qualified replacement will be found, uncertainty remains as to who specifically will take over the position of provost and executive vice president of academic affairs when Sullivan leaves Ann Arbor on July 31.
And it begs the question whether history will repeat itself.
When University President Mary Sue Coleman hired Sullivan in 2006, it was the first time the top two spots in the University’s administration were both held by women and the first time that neither the University president nor the provost was hired from within the University.
The latter fact caused some in the University community to raise objections, claiming that Coleman had applied pressure on the search advisory committee to give preference to candidates from outside the University.
Reports by The Michigan Daily at the time outlined allegations from sources familiar with the process who claimed Coleman had leaned on committee members to only recommend outside candidates for the position. Coleman denied such action in several interviews after the allegations were raised.
Criticism of the nine-month, national search that resulted in Sullivan’s hiring also came from a member of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs at the time. In response to claims that she was neglecting to consult faculty on the decision, Coleman told SACUA members that the decision was hers alone, the Daily reported.
In response to a request from the Daily yesterday, University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said in an e-mail that it was too soon to comment on how Sullivan’s successor would be chosen.
“We’re fortunate that the provost has given the University time to consider the next steps in the process,” Cunningham wrote. “I don’t have anything to report right now.”
And while details of who will serve on the advisory search committee for the next provost have yet to be released, many administrators and regents are hoping Sullivan’s replacement will be someone who exemplifies some of the same qualities Sullivan brought to the table.
Dean of Libraries Paul Courant, who served as the University’s provost from 2002 to 2005, said in an interview yesterday the two main tasks of the provost — controlling the budget and academics at the University — will require a unique set of qualifications from Sullivan’s successor.
“The provost is the chief academic officer and the chief budget officer at the institution,” Courant said. “The budget times are going to be tough over the next while and the provost has to be able to ensure that the academic missions of the university – learning, teaching, research – are always in the foreground as choices are made, especially in tough times.
However, Courant said he is confident a candidate with the right set of skills will emerge to take over as provost.
“We’ve always had provosts who are willing and able to do that and I have every confidence that the next one will as well,” he said.
Despite his confidence that a suitable candidate will be found to replace Sullivan,
Courant said it was too early to speculate whether the next provost would be chosen from within the University or from the outside.
“I just wouldn’t want to speculate,” Courant said. “The president will make the choice; she will choose the best person for the job.”
“It’s often the case that provosts come from inside because it’s useful to know how the University works. I think that’s why it’s been that way in the past,” Courant continued. “Yet, Terry was an extremely effective and successful provost here so it’s clear that one can come from outside do very, very well in the job.”
Prof. James Duderstadt, who served as University President from 1988 to 1996 and also served as a University provost after rising through the University’s internal ranks, said an innate knowledge of how to provide a quality education will be essential for Sullivan’s replacement.
“(The Provost has) to have a deep understanding of academic priorities, what makes a great university function and appreciation for faculty roles,” Duderstadt said.
However, Duderstadt said that, all things considered, having a successful replacement will come down to the quality of the relationship the next provost will have with Coleman.
“In the end I think it’s very much a relationship between the provost and president which makes universities work well,” Duderstadt said.
Duderstadt said that, based on her selection of Sullivan, he believes Coleman will choose a quality individual to fill the position.
And though he didn’t mention the names of potential replacements, Duderstadt did say the University traditionally hires provosts who have great leadership potential, including the ability to go on to become presidents of universities, like Sullivan and himself.
“The provost position at Michigan has produced some of the great presidents in this country. That’s what people look to it for,” Duderstadt said. “That’s what Michigan presidents look for. We look for provosts who have the capability to provide that kind of leadership at the national level.”
Duderstadt said he believes the search for the next provost will include looking for both internal and external candidates and that it’s possible a dean from within the University could rise to the position.
“We have some very capable deans right now and that’s the first pool you look at,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent inside, but there’s a lot of talent as you look across the country right now.”
Vice President and General Counsel Suellyn Scarnecchia told the Daily yesterday that in addition to being able to balance academic and budgetary concerns, she thinks it will be very important for Sullivan’s successor to engage the campus community if he or she hopes to be successful.
“I think is very important that a successor is someone who — like Provost Sullivan — will listen to all the different constituencies, which she did quite religiously,” Scarnecchia said. “I think that has helped us get through some of these more difficult times.”
In an interview yesterday, Regent Andrew Richner (R–Grosse Pointe Park), who currently serves as chairman of the University Board of Regents, outlined key characteristics he said he believed Sullivan’s successor must have.
“We’ll need someone that has skills like those that Terry Sullivan demonstrated, which is the ability to deal with (budget) challenges in an effective way,” Richner said.
Regent Julia Darlow (D–Ann Arbor) echoed Richner in an interview yesterday, saying Sullivan’s successor will need to be able to balance budgeting and academics.
“The person who succeeds her will have big shoes to fill,” Darlow said. “I understand even bigger than most provost shoes, because ours handles financial responsibilities as well as the academic responsibility.”
Despite the high expectations, Regent Andrea Fisher-Newman (R–Ann Arbor) said she remains confident that Coleman will be able to find a suitable replacement.
“They’re going to be big shoes to fill and we have the same president charged with the responsibility of finding someone to fill those shoes,” Newman said. “I have every confidence that President Coleman will be able to do it again.”
— Daily Staff Reporters Joseph Lichterman and Annie Gordon Thomas contributed to this report.