Johnstown input sought in search

Jane Stueckemann, Managing Editor

Pitt-Oakland search committee members invited Pitt-Johnstown faculty and staff to attend a town hall meeting Feb. 14 to discuss their expectations for Pitt’s next provost.

Patricia Beeson, who had started as a Pitt faculty member in 1983 and who has served as provost for the past eight years, announced in November that she planned to step down and return to teaching at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

Beeson said in a press release that it has been a great privilege to work with gifted Pitt faculty, students and staff through the years.

The town hall, held in the Murtha Center, was led by Rob Rutenbar, senior vice research chancellor and provost search committee chair.

“We’re going around on a broad listening tour, asking people (at each Pitt campus) what they think we should be doing.

“We’re running town hall meetings to solicit input,” Rutenbar said as he began the meeting.

Rutenbar explained the search logistics to fill Beeson’s position.

“Our search committee’s job is to go from a lot of applicants…down to about five. We’ll meet with Chancellor (Patrick) Gallagher and we’ll talk about what we liked. It’s then his job to hire a person.

“Our goal is to have a brand new shiny provost in August or September,” Rutenbar said.

Rutenbar also explained the provost’s responsibilities.

“The provost is the chief academic officer. They’re in charge of all the academic and university priorities, and they allocate funds to carry those priorities forward.”

He said the provost reports to Chancellor Gallagher, but branch campus presidents and Pitt-Oakland deans report to the provost.

Then, he asked those in attendance to share Pitt-Johnstown’s strengths that the new provost ought to be aware of.

“There’s an element of sales here. We are pitching Pitt,” Rutenbar said.

Some audience members said Pitt-Johnstown’s strengths are the programs, students and faculty. Many said they wanted the next provost to recognize and support the success that Pitt branch campuses have.

Humanities Division Chair Michael Stoneham said that he thinks it is important that the new provost recognize that, when it comes to Pitt-Johnstown’s professors, there are growth opportunities.

Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar was in attendance also. Rutenbar asked him to define what the next provost should be thinking about in regard to growing the student population.

Spectar said Pitt-Johnstown’s administrators and faculty always have been adaptive and responsive to the environment, positioning themselves to respond to, and anticipate, challenges.

“10 years ago, we started the Nursing and Health Sciences Division. That program has helped sustain us through difficult times.

“Western (Pennsylvania) has seen the number of graduating seniors going to college shrink, but we have to remain around 3,000 students, so we changed our mix of students.

“We’re no longer a liberal arts college, but our programs are grounded in liberal arts and sciences,” Spectar said.

Rutenbar asked attendees whether the next provost should have academia experience.

Many audience members said the next provost should have good leadership and management skills.