The Role of a Proactive Provost
Following an extensive search, the university announced its selection
for Georgetown’s new provost on Monday. James J. O’Donnell, who will replace
Dorothy Brown on July 1, is currently a professor of Classical Studies
and vice provost for Information Systems and Computing at the University
of Pennsylvania. O’Donnell’s resume is impressive, having taught at Cornell,
Johns Hopkins and Yale. He has published scholarly books, received prestigious
grants and fellowships and is now the president-elect of the American Philological
Association — the nation’s premier association of classicists.
In many ways, O’Donnell is reminiscent of Georgetown itself: he is schooled
in the classics and has a long-standing tradition of academic excellence.
Yet, equally important, he also understands the importance of technology
in today’s world. Like Georgetown, O’Donnell is able to look toward the
future without losing his strong connection to the past.
Once he takes office, O’Donnell faces a difficult task. The university
is in need of a proactive provost, one who is a strong advocate for the
faculty he will represent. His position dictates that O’Donnell be the
chief liaison between the faculty and the administration — while remembering
that he is a member of the former rather than the latter group. Much like
the leader of a professional union, a university provost must consistently
go to bat for the professors he represents.
Supporting Georgetown’s faculty can do nothing but improve the university
as a whole. National rankings are in part based on such items as faculty
quality, retention and salary, and by working to improve these currently
lackluster areas, Georgetown will continue its rise in national recognition.
By taking tangible steps like creating an option allowing alumni to
give directly to academic departments and programs and actively recruiting
minority professors, O’Donnell can help ensure the continued success of
Georgetown. O’Donnell can also foster growth by seeking out the highest
caliber of faculty members and encouraging them to balance their teaching
It is entirely possible for a student to spend four years at a university
and never interact with the provost, or, for that matter, even know his
name. Yet, the provost influences the academic career of every young man
or woman to pass through an institution.
The faculty of a university is no less important to the success and
vibrancy of that institution than those they teach. By representing our
instructors, James J. O’Donnell will in turn represent us.
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