University searches for new, Catholic-minded Provost

On August 1, the University announced that Thomas Burish, provost for almost fifteen years, will be stepping down, effective July 2020. Burish is only the fourth person to hold the role of provost at Notre Dame. During his term as provost, he made tremendous strides for the university’s academic reputation, diversity, and Catholic mission. 

In 2005 Burish accepted his position as provost with humility and gratitude, “It has been a great joy and privilege to return to my alma mater as provost and to be a part of Notre Dame’s distinctive excellence as a Catholic research university.” Graduating summa cum laude from Notre Dame in 1972, Burish continued his education at the University of Kansas to receive his master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology and clinical psychology, respectively. He then held the position of longest-serving provost at Vanderbilt University, before coming home to Notre Dame. 

Fr. John Jenkins, the university’s President, said in his Annual Address to the Faculty, “Tom asked that, in various public statements about the transition, we do not give laudatory tributes for his work of his nearly fifteen years as provost.” Burish’s humility and kindness are some of his most recognizable attributes. Jenkins added, “Among Tom’s greatest strengths is the humility to direct his efforts to enabling others to flourish.”

One of Burish’s most noteworthy accomplishments during his fifteen years in office has been improving the academic reputation of the university. While Notre Dame has always been among the top academic institutions in the nation, during his reign as provost, Burish has expanded this honor to be quite tangible. Notre Dame is consistently ranked in the top 25 institutions for higher learning in the country, and is ranked as Best Catholic College in America, according to  

Strides in diversity have also been one of Burish’s strong suits. In the Annual Address, Jenkins noted that “this fall, 35 percent of the first-year class are U.S. students of color or international citizens, compared to 24 percent in 2005 [when Burish first started as provost].”

Junior Maria Salerno was chosen to represent the undergraduate student population for the new provost search committee. Salerno emphasized that Notre Dame’s Catholic mission is at the center of the search for a new provost to lead the university. She said of the committee, “We have a list of our top three qualities that we are looking for in the new provost, which include: upholding Notre Dame’s Catholic mission, having a deep passion for Notre Dame as an institution, and working to improve undergraduate studies and research.” 

Throughout his time as provost, Burish has recognized the importance of staying committed to the University’s Catholic mission, seen most notably in everyday conversations. In talking about Burish, Salerno said, “He is very personable and well-liked around campus. Not only is he a great public speaker, but even talking one-on-one with him, he is very eloquent and genuine.” 

Going forward in the provost selection task, the committee is going to work year round and announce their chosen candidate near the end of the academic year. Salerno’s main role as the student representative is to “find a way to get the students to have a voice and have some input on choosing a new provost.” She noted how student involvement can be one of the hardest jobs, especially as some students are not even aware that the university is in the process of hiring a new provost. 

Jenkins highlighted the importance of confidentiality in the search for a new provost, “Once we begin our search for candidates, we will make no public statements until we are ready to announce a new provost.” One thing is certain: The new provost of Notre Dame will have big shoes to fill. 

If you are interested in being a part of the conversation for the appointment of the provost, the University has arranged two listening sessions. Attend an undergraduate session on Wednesday, October 2, at 4 p.m. in DeBartolo 101 or a non-undergraduate session on Wednesday, October 16, at 4 p.m. in DeBartolo 101. The University community is also invited to send thoughts and comments to

Sydney Missigman is a sophomore majoring in Management Consulting and Spanish. She is a resident of Lewis Hall and proud member of the Gateway 6.0 Cohort. She can be reached at