On April 1, in her first significant act as newly inaugurated president, Judy Hample announced her appointment of Jay A. Harper, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Rowan University, to the position of provost of the University of Mary Washington.
As the University’s first permanent administrator to serve as provost, Harper will serve as the University’s chief academic officer, responsible for overseeing all educational and academic policies, providing leadership of major university initiatives, and coordinating university enrollment management.
Harper will take office on July 1, succeeding Philosophy Professor Nina Mikhalevsky’s two-year stint as Acting Provost.
According to the University’s press release, Harper has spent the past decade serving as dean and professor at Rowan University where he has provided leadership for more than 360 faculty members.
When asked about his interest in Mary Washington, Harper cited several reasons, including the University’s location and “overwhelming aesthetic beauty,” before mentioning the difference between teaching and research institutions.
“I’m interested in a liberal education rather than an inoculation,” Harper said.
Hample cited Harper’s experience as an administrator, his prowess in private fund-raising, and his proven commitment to diversity in interdisciplinary studies as significant factors in her decision.
“Dr. Harper’s career of successful achievements makes clear that he is best prepared to carry out the agenda which I envision for the University of Mary Washington for the next decade,” Hample said.
Key goals of that vision, outlined in Hample’s campus-wide address in Nov. 2008, include an Institute for International Education, a Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, diversity initiatives, and cultivation of appropriate new graduate programs.
But the most important element of Hample’s strategic planning process involves the restructuring of Mary Washington into an integrated campus consisting of a College of Arts and Sciences, a College of Business, and a College of Education.
Harper emphasized that the seamless merging of these three colleges into one faculty is his primary initial concern as Provost. However, he remains hesitant to discuss the specifics of his plan to achieve that objective.
“I plan to spend the first six months of my job speaking with faculty and determining the issues facing them,” Harper said in a public forum while still a candidate for the position. “My role as provost is to take their ideas and make them happen.”
According to Craig Vasey, chair of the classics, philosophy and religion department and chair of the Provost Search Committee, the position of the Provost was first created two years ago under then Acting President Richard Hurley as the logical progression in the University’s transition towards a unified campus.
Hurley appointed Mikhalevsky as Acting Provost to help facilitate administrative decisions between the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Graduate and Professional Studies while the search for a University President was still ongoing.
Hample created the Provost Search Committee in December 2008 and appointed them with the task of finding a permanent provost.
Harper’s appointment is the culmination of that five-month selection process in which the committee, consisting largely of faculty from various disciplines, reviewed 45 applications before narrowing the field down to three candidates, including Acting Provost Mikhalevsky.
At the end of March, each candidate was invited to campus, where they met with faculty and student leaders and answered questions at a public forum.
“We ended up endorsing all three of the candidates,” Vasey said. “We got a sense from each of them that they shared our values about faculty life and the nature of the institution.”
However, Vasey was quick to point out that the committee’s role was merely to screen candidates, not to choose one. That decision rested with the President.
According to Hample, there were a number of factors that distinguished Harper.
“I believe Dr. Harper will use his talents and energies working with our outstanding faculty to bring increased recognition to the accomplishments of our talented faculty and students,” Hample said.