Marie Lynn Miranda’s resignation prompts search process for new chief academic officer
In light of Dr. Marie Lynn Miranda’s resignation as provost of the university, effective December 31, 2021, Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C. has convened a committee to conduct the search for the next provost.
As announced in a December 23 email from the Office of the President, the committee consists of five faculty members and one undergraduate student—student body president Allan Njomo—appointed by the Academic Council, as well as three additional faculty members and a graduate student appointed directly by Fr. Jenkins. The purpose of the members appointed directly by the president is “to ensure that a broad range of views and perspectives is represented on the committee.”
The committee includes the following members:
- Therese Cory, John and Jean Oesterle Associate Professor of Thomistic Studies, Department of Philosophy
- La Donna L. Forsgren, Rev. Thomas J. McDonagh, C.S.C., Associate Professor of Film, Television, and Theatre
- Richard W. Garnett, Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law
- Christopher Kolda, Professor, Department of Physics
- Ramachandran Ramanan, Professor, Department of Accountancy
- Allan Njomo, Student Body President
- Mary Flannery, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Students of the College of Arts and Letters, and Teaching Professor, Department of Economics
- Edward Maginn, Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Engineering
- Maura A. Ryan, Vice President and Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, John Cardinal O’Hara, C.S.C., Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
- Sarah Pate, Ph.D. candidate in Chemical Engineering
The Academic Articles of the university describe the provost’s role thus: “Within the framework of University policies and procedures, the Provost has responsibility, under the President, for the administration, coordination, and development of all the academic activities and functions of the University.” The provost serves as the second in command of the university.
In a virtual Listening Session for students on Wednesday, January 12, Fr. Jenkins summarized the position, stating that the provost “oversees the teaching and the learning that are at the very heart of the university.”
Many top administrators are employed under the Office of the Provost, including the Vice President for Research and the Deans of the Colleges. The provost provides a personal recommendation to the president for all tenure and tenure-track hires and directly appoints all other faculty members.
Additionally, the provost appoints faculty members to participate in numerous administrative units, including the Academic Council, the Core Curriculum Committee, and the University Committee on Admissions, Scholarships, and Financial Aid. This individual’s direct influence on such a wide range of the university’s activities makes the provost search process very important, as Fr. Jenkins stated in his initial email announcing the search.
In view of the wide-ranging influence of the provost and the consequent gravity of the search process, the Office of the President has greatly encouraged student input. The student session on January 12 provided a space for such input, and several students spoke to Fr. Jenkins, Chief of Staff Ann Firth, and the search committee about the qualities they viewed as most important for a Provost.
A common theme among students’ comments was a focus on Catholic mission, though that focus was articulated in diverse ways. Zef Crnkovich [Editor’s note: Crnkovich serves as an editor for the Rover], a senior studying Classics, voiced his opinion that it is “critical for the provost to be an academic who is committed to the Catholic faith. He or she needs to be a top academic who is a top academic because of their faith.”
Students also focused on academic freedom and free speech. Nicolas Abouchedid, a senior studying Chinese and philosophy, stated the importance of “cultivat[ing] a spirit of freedom where one can express an opinion that’s not necessarily in the mainstream.”
In a final comment, senior Therese Geishauser offered an opinion that connected several threads expressed by other students. Ultimately, she said, it is imperative that the provost be “concerned with formation in virtue, and not just potential donors coming out of graduation. It’s about holistic formation more than anything.”
Dr. Thomas Burish, who served as Provost from July 2005 to June 2020, is quoted in an article paying tribute to his service as saying, “It has been a great joy and privilege to return to my alma mater as provost and to be able to work with the trustees, faculty, staff, students, alums, donors and others on the ambitious agenda articulated by Fr. John to be a truly Catholic, truly preeminent research university.”
During Burish’s tenure, benefactor investment increased greatly, international connections and opportunities expanded—including the establishment of the Keough School of Global Affairs—and, in the words of now-interim Provost Christine Maziar, there was “a reinvigorated emphasis on the importance of research and scholarship for a Catholic university that expects to have something to say in the world.”
Mark Roche, the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Professor of German Language and Literature, served as the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters from 1997 to 2008 and worked closely with Provost Burish for three years. In an email exchange with the Rover, Roche attributed Burish’s success—and that of Provost Nathan Hatch, who served from 1996 to 2005—to his understanding of Notre Dame’s mission.
“They had a deep understanding of Notre Dame’s distinctive mission and its unique position within higher education,” Roche said. “They viewed this distinction not only as having intrinsic value; they saw it was also our most enduring competitive advantage.”
Roche added that both “had a sober assessment of the University’s weaknesses,” had a “great sense of humor,” and were “superb in fundraising.”
The Provost search will continue for a short time to receive nominations via email and in a faculty Listening Session. After the period for receiving nominations concludes, the members of the search committee will make a recommendation to the President, who will report the committee’s recommendation along with his own to the Board of Trustees. The Rover will continue to report on the search process as it proceeds.
Josh Gilchrist is a junior in the Program of Liberal Studies with a supplementary major in theology. When he’s not in the library or the PLS lounge, you can find him running around the lakes, mixing drinks, or enjoying a good conversation over a cigar. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.