The search has begun for Donald Nieman’s replacement as Binghamton University provost.
Nieman is stepping down at the end of the academic year from his positions as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs after a decade-long tenure. The initiation of the hiring process was announced in a Dateline announcement released early last week. It outlined the formation of a hiring committee and the enlistment of WittKieffer, an executive hiring search firm, to seek out BU’s next provost.
Barry Jones, co-chair of the provost hiring committee, chair of the economics department and a professor of economics, detailed the hiring committee’s composition.
“The search committee is broadly representative of the University and includes representatives of every school and college and the [Glenn G. Bartle] Library,” Jones wrote in an email. “It includes three distinguished professors (including [M. Stanley Whittingham, distinguished professor of chemistry and director of the Northeast Center for Chemical Energy Storage]), the directors of [the Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention] and the Harriet Tubman Center [for the Study of Freedom and Equity], the most recent Faculty Senate chair, the founding director of speech [and] language pathology, two department chairs (not including me), the director of [the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)] and an assistant dean. It also includes a student leader who serves on the BU Council, a former dean who also serves on the BU Council and the chair of the BU Foundation board.”
Karen Jones, committee co-chair and vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, provided insight into how the search has developed thus far.
“The process has been quite open and transparent and in accordance with the search firm’s proposal and our hiring processes,” Jones wrote in an email. “Members of the search committee met with the consultants to discuss the position description, as well as members of the campus community; identifying experiences one would expect from a provost.”
Jones also explained the type of candidate that the committee is seeking out and the extent of the search.
“This is a national search, and our expectation is we will find a candidate whose experience will build upon the foundation and work of Provost Nieman; an excellent scholar and a servant leader,” Jones wrote. “One whose work and vision will complement [BU] President [Harvey] Stenger’s and the members of the senior leadership team … We are searching for a candidate who values public education; who has an understanding as to the historical founding of SUNY [and] its mission of creating access and yet wants to further position the University to its continued rise as a premier research institution; and someone who has a demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.”
Students voiced their own personal wishes and concerns for the new provost.
Kate O’Neill, a sophomore majoring in systems science and industrial engineering, highlighted desires for a future provost to have experience in education.
“I would want a provost who’s open to input from students, just generally more accessible,” O’Neill wrote. “Also someone who’s taught before and understands that plans on paper don’t directly translate to what happens in the classroom.”
Christian Loucas, an undeclared freshman, said he would like the new provost to focus on the overall freshman experience, targeting high workloads and the challenging transition to college life.
“I would like for a new provost to have the teachers and [teaching assistants (TAs)] be more lenient with their work and deadlines,” Loucas wrote. “I would also like for them to cater a bit more toward freshmen as we have no idea what we’re doing. A lot of the stuff that students from other years know is much different than what we have grown up with.”
Imtiaz Alam, a sophomore majoring in mathematics, highlighted his own concerns with the lack of funding to the theatre department, which he would like the provost help with.
“I remember taking a [theatre] class last semester and part of the class was that we had to write about the [BU] student productions, but one thing that was very noticeable about this assignment was that we were required to buy tickets,” Alam wrote. “My teacher explained that the show isn’t budgeted or allocated like other departments but rather covered more by ticket sales. The [theatre] department is an amazing set of people who make spectacular shows. It’s a shame that their passion and production isn’t allocated for.”
Putting the search aside, Jones expressed the committee’s gratitude for Neiman’s time as provost.
“We are very lucky to have enjoyed Provost Nieman’s leadership first as dean of Harpur College and then as provost,” Jones wrote. “He was instrumental in expanding the University under SUNY 2020, launching [the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences] and leading the ongoing health care expansion. He has also been a champion of interdisciplinary research and teaching. His leadership was a time of growth while protecting quality and improving our reputation. In the past two years, he was instrumental in helping get us through the pandemic.”
The committee plans to wrap up their search and make a hire in spring 2022, with the new provost beginning work in the summer.