Provost search committee holds public forum

Caleb Wilson

Chancellor Agrawal and the search committee for UMKC’s new provost and vice chancellor held an open forum for students, faculty and staff last week to share their input on what they want in a new provost.

The position was left open after the former provost, Barbara Bichelmeyer, left UMKC for a position at the University of Kansas.

During the forum, one of the co-chairs of the committee, professor Steve Dilks, highlighted the three areas of focus the committee wanted feedback on: the amount of experience the new provost should have, characteristics they should exhibit and qualities they should possess.

Agrawal himself opened the discussion by stating the factors he sought in a candidate.

“They should be getting students focused on studies and also engaged on campus,” said Agrawal.

The chancellor also noted the candidate should not be afraid to change the way things are done, especially if they have always been done that way. He went on to emphasize the importance of diversity among the candidates, telling the audience that in the shortlist of three to five candidates he expects to receive from the committee, they should be diverse in both race and gender. If the list was not diverse enough, Agrawal said he would send the list back to the committee to be re-examined.

Diversity and inclusiveness was additionally a strong theme in the feedback from the attendees. UMKC Student Government Association (SGA) President Justice Horn, a member of the committee, emphasized the importance of diversity and how diverse administrators and faculty make higher education accessible to everyone.

“The next provost must make diversity and inclusion a chief priority; not simply for show, but effect,” Horn said. “With this, we can start to see more underrepresented communities reflected in our faculty and staff.”

SGA Speaker of the Senate Emma Weiler also noted the importance of having women in visible leadership roles.

Horn later raised concerns over the use of the forum as a method for feedback.

“In regards to the environment, I’m concerned about the dynamic of the forum and how it can limit the willingness of faculty and staff to sincerely express their views and expectations in the Provost search,” said Horn. “We can’t expect people to speak freely at a lone microphone standing before the head of the university, Chancellor Agrawal.”

With a national search underway, the search committee hopes to have candidates on campus to interview near the end of April, with the new provost fully installed by August of the fall semester.

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