1st Edition

Provost Experiences, Reflections and Advice From a Former "Number Two" on Campus

By Larry A. Nielsen Copyright 2013

    What is a Provost—and what does a Provost do? Don’t look for the answers on the bookshelf. There is scant literature devoted to the Provost-ship – for which the author advances a number of hypotheses – so, until this informal and autobiographical account, there has been little for aspirants or new appointees to draw on for guidance or to provide a feel for what the role entails.Larry Nielsen offers a highly personal account of his tenure as Provost of North Carolina State University, from his unexpected invitation by the Chancellor to act as interim Provost, to the events that forced his resignation four years later, and brought him unwanted notoriety. In a fast-paced, self-deprecating style he invites the reader to share the activities that crowded his schedule, the symbolic character of the role, its opportunities to shape policy, and its limitations, as well as the joy and satisfaction he derived from making a difference in people’s lives and the institution. We see him in action, and get a sense of the role, as he addresses problems large and small. He shares insights on the governance of a large public institution, on how monies are allocated, and funds made available for strategic initiatives. By the end of the book, we gain an understanding of the myriad roles of the “number two” position of the institution, responsible for the direction and functioning of all its academic and curricular affairs, that Larry Nielsen characterized for himself as “the University's stay-at-home Dad.”He concludes the book with a look back at the Provost’s job from his renewed perspective as a faculty member, further demonstrating the truth of his assertion that “where you stand depends on where you sit.”This is an entertaining and insightful read for anyone who wants to get a glimpse of how a large university functions, as seen through the eyes of an ultimate “insider.” For those interested in taking on the highest administrative positions in higher education it offers a window into that world, including the perils to which incumbents can be exposed when their actions become front-page news.

    Acknowledgments Foreword. D. H. DeHayes Preface Part One. The Accidental Provost 1.I Loved My Job 2.It Was Destiny 3.Who Could Love Being an Administrator? 4.From Sublime to Ridiculous 5.Realizing Possibilities Part Two. Mr. Provost 6.What Is a Provost, Anyhow? 7.Being Number Two 8.The Provost Is Not a Dean 9.The Provost’s Perfect Day 10.The University’s Stay-at-Home Parent 11.Just a Little Famous Lessons About Being Mr. Provost Part Three. Money Is Way Ahead of Whatever Is in Second Place 12.A Textbook Example 13.The Provost’s Best Friend 14.We Have More Money Than We Think We Do 15.We Have All the Money We Need 16.The Strategic Doorstop 17.The Provost Ain’t Got No Alumni Lessons About Money Part Four. Academics “R” Us 18.Academics “R” Us—or “R” It? 19.Strategy “R” Us, Too 20.Athletes Are Students, Too 21. Yin, Yang, and You 22.Speaking of Students 23.In the Service of Academics 24.Graduation Day Lessons About Academics Part Five. Facilities and Other Evils 25.Space, the Final Frontier 26.Space Assignments Don’t Die, They Just Fossilize 27.New Space Is Just on Its Way to Becoming Old Space 28.The Worst Two-Word Phrase in the University Vocabulary 29.Private Business Wouldn’t Do It This Way 30.Snow Days 31.How the Provost Froze Christmas Lessons About Facilities and Other Evils Part Six. Faculty 32.Administrators Love Faculty, Really 33.Faculty Are the Capital of the University 34.Where Does Faculty Leave off and Provost begin? 35.Faculty Bark; the Provost Bites 36.To Tenure or Not to Tenure 37.There’s No Business Like the Know Business Lessons About Faculty Part Seven. People Matter Most 38.Populus Plurimus Maximus Es 39.Showing Up Is 95% of Life 40.Transparency Is Alive, but Privacy Is Dead 41.Not Everyone Is Like Me 42.Leave Your Phone at the Door 43.In the Presence of Greatness Lessons About People Mattering Most Part Eight. Experience Is a Great Teacher 44.First Reports From the Front 45.What Is a Department Head, Anyway? 46.Being a Dean Helps 47.It’s a Clingy Environment 48.Dancing With a Gorilla 49.The Gorilla That Got Me 50.What I Learned From the Dancing Gorilla Lessons From Experience Part Nine. Who Owns the University? 51.No One Could Do a Better Job Than You 52.A Messy Bottom Line 53.The Faculty’s Property Interest 54.The Provost’s Job Lessons About Who Owns the University Part Ten. Being the Ex 55.Starting Over 56.The Half-Life of an Ex-Provost 57.We Don’t Know Anything—and We Don’t Really Care 58.Learning to Love Again Lessons About Being the Ex-Provost Part Eleven. The Literature of the Provost 59.What Is a Provost? 60.Who Gets to Be a Provost? 61.How Do Provosts Spend Their Time? 62.Is There Life After Being Provost? Lessons From the Literature Part Twelve. So You Want to Be a Provost 63.A Citizen of the University 64.A Student of the University 65.One of the Guys References Index


    Larry A. Nielsen is Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University.

    D.H. DeHayes is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, The University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI

    "When Provost arrived in the mail for my review, I first noticed its bulk. Opening the book to the table of contents, I found 65 chapters in 12 parts for a total of 402 pages. To my surprise and pleasure, Nielsen is an engaging and superb writer. More valuable than any of the conferences I have attended, I felt I had found a mentor. Reading this book was like visiting with Larry Nielsen over a cup of coffee, laughing about shared experiences as provost, and gleaning wisdom from a smart and successful former 'Number Two'.”

    "In this extraordinary reflection on the role of and experience in serving as Provost at a major public research university, Larry Nielsen thoughtfully, and with honesty, wit, and clarity, describes the wonder of the position and helps us all navigate the pitfalls and savor the moments of joy and progress.

    Nielsen’s years on the faculty and in positions of Department Head, Director, Dean, and Provost provide him a depth of knowledge and special insights about the inner workings of the academy across several institutions. His uncanny capacity for reflection upon and synthesis of those experiences, including the unfortunate circumstances that led to his resignation, and translation of them into meaningful analysis and prose lend credence to his advice and make this a book worth reading – not only for aspiring Provosts, but also for faculty, Deans, and Presidents.

    Read this book and learn about the inner workings of our universities, the roles and responsibilities of the Provost position, the subtle dimensions of effective leadership, and, equally as interesting, the experiences and reflections of an individual who loves the academy."

    D.H. DeHayes, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, The University of Rhode Island