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Provost search narrows to three

By Michael Martinez
On April 4, 2012


A national search for UDM's next provost/vice president of academic affairs is down to three finalists, including the person who currently holds the job.

C. Reynold Verret, Deborah Bordelon and Pamela Zarkowski are being interviewed on campus this week and next. The candidate who is hired will be second in command to only President Antoine Garibaldi.

Verret has been provost at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania since 2007. He is also a professor of biochemistry, and was on campus Monday and Tuesday.

Bordelon is dean of the College of Education at Governors State University in Illinois, and will visit UDM Wednesday and Thursday. She shares a connection with Garibaldi in that both held administrative positions at Xavier University in Louisiana - but years apart. (Garibaldi said he "only knows of her by name.")

Zarkowski has worked at Detroit Mercy since 1978 and will be interviewed next week. She is vice president for academic affairs. A couple years ago, former President Fr. Gerard Stockhausen dropped "provost" from the title and altered the structure of UDM's administration, creating another position, executive vice president.

Garibaldi is switching the title back.

"This isn't a power trip," he said. "This is the typical structure. I wanted to make sure the provost/vice president for academic affairs was recognized as the No. 2 person in the university."

Dr. Prasad Venugopal, an associate professor of physics, is part of the 12-person search committee made up of faculty and staff from all three campuses. He said the on-campus interviews are a chance for students and administrators to get to know the candidates.

"In each case, the goal is to have a conversation to learn more about them," he said. "It's a chance to learn their vision and interest in UDM and to try and understand how best each candidate might suit the university's needs."

Scheherazode Burton, a senior communications major, will meet with Bordelon Thursday.

Burton, who serves as a resident advisor on campus, has interviewed others for positions in residence life and knows what she wants from the candidate.

"I want someone who's going to care about the students," she said.

 Burton cites Garibaldi as an example.

"He got a chance here and came in and was very personable," she said. "He remembered students' names and that's what counts."

Garibaldi said he will work closely with whomever is selected.

"They may not make my job easier but they'll allow me to do things I want to do next year in a larger way," he said. "I'd like to spend more time on the road and out of town visiting with alumni and others to raise money."

The provost will give him more freedom to leave campus, he said.

"I'll feel less required to attend all university functions and delegate them to the provost to free me up to do really important relationship building," he said.

Garibaldi was provost at Howard University from 1996-2000 and knows what he wants out of the candidate.

"It's important for them to be interacting with people on campus," he said. "I may be one face of the university but I'm not the only one."

Among the provost's responsibilities is overseeing the various college deans.

But, according to Venugopal, the candidate will have a lot on their plate once selected.

They'll help implement Garibaldi's strategic plan for UDM, aid in the university's re-accreditation process in 2017 and lead discussions about online education.

The candidate will also help establish a new collective bargaining agreement with the faculty union.

The union contract runs until May 2013. He said he doesn't foresee any trouble negotiating a new deal.

"It's been a longstanding relationship with the administration that's been very constructive and productive," he said. "We've negotiated a number of contracts."

The hiring decision is being closely watched by faculty.

Although he's not part of the search committee, Dr. Matthew Mio, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said he's definitely paying attention.

"It's a very big deal," said Mio, president of the McNichols Faculty Assembly. "They're the sun around which all the other moons rotate."

Mio hopes the selected candidate will be cooperative with the staff.

"We need someone who's willing to work with the faculty on all levels of decision making," he said. "Being able to balance all those parts of UDM is important."

The MFA is a shared governance structure that handles day-to-day curricular maintenance, Mio said. It works in conjunction with the faculty union to help protect the rights of the faculty.

The two-group structure isn't common at other institutions, he said.

"I've been to a lot of universities and UDM is unique in that way," he said. "That's why this hire is of great importance for every faculty member."

He said students should be concerned, too.

"Most students are probably focused on what to eat at Subway or what's for homework tonight, but none of that happens without the provost," he said.

Venugopal said the search committee has been meeting since fall and is nearing the end of its selection process.

"Sometime after next week the committee will make a recommendation," he said. "And from there Dr. Garibaldi will make a decision."

Garibaldi said he wants the decision to "be done by graduation" - Saturday, May 12. 

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