VP search responds to “A New Beginning” report

Author: Gail Hinchion Mancini


The University of Notre Dame is launching a national search for a vice president for research, reflecting a change in the administrative structure of graduate education and research designed to take the Universitys aspirations to the next level.

The new structure splits the job of vice president for graduate studies and research into two positions that will each report directly to the provost. The new structure has been recommended by the Academic Council and the president and, most recently, approved by the Board of Trustees. The Academic Council elected a five-member search committee last week. Provost Thomas Burish said he would like to see the new vice president in place by the beginning of next academic year.

Elected committee members are Neil Delaney, philosophy and honors program; Maureen Hallinan, sociology; Steve Batill, engineering; Richard Taylor, chemistry and biochemistry; and Malgorzata Dobrowolska-Furdyna, physics. The provost may appoint up to two additional members.

Burish raised the issue of potential reorganization shortly after his arrival in fall 2005, when he created the ad hoc committee on graduate education and research.

The committee returned with a report in this past May that reflects a deep desire to intensify the Universitys commitment to research. CalledA New Beginning,the report cites a critical issuethat must be addressed if the University is to become a leading research institution.

The issue concerns the level of commitment of the Universitys administration to its research mission.It urges the administration to step beyond theminimalplans ofthe most recent strategic plan by deliveringa crisp message to the Universitys constituents on the importance of research and to provide prioritized research targets.(The complete report can be found on the provosts Web site, http://provost.nd.edu/ .)

Throughout the summer, Burish reviewed the report with campus stakeholders of research and graduate student recruitment. In September, he responded to the report with a letter to the faculty that announced the new vice presidents position. Per the committees recommendation, the new research vice president will be a University officer.

The candor of the committees report did not surprise Burish, who said he has heard similar comments and suggestions during his first year, when he met continuously with faculty one-on-one or in groups.

Theres a real ambition among the faculty thats compelling, attractive and energizing,he said.

Burish addressed the future of research last month in a presentation that spoke of committing further resources toward targetedprograms of preeminence.Echoing a point in the committee report, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research programs are to be encouraged, particularly those relevant to the critical human needs of the 21 st century and to the Universitys mission.

The provost said he sees the committees report, his presentation, and statements on the issue by the Universitys president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., asall contributing to the overall goal espoused by Father Jenkins of being recognized as a preeminent Catholic research university.

The vice president for research will address infrastructure and support of researchthe work of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students alikeand the competition for funding dollars, as well as support for the Universitys technology transfer efforts.

A new and unnamed position in the provosts office will have oversight of graduate studies. Burish says he expects that position to be filled with due speed, possiblybefore the new vice president is elected.

A review of graduate studies governance and budgetary issues occupies much of the ad hoc committee report, and recommendations attempt to answer how to strike the appropriate balance of authority and resources between the graduate studies office and the deans and departments.

The committee recommended that more fiscal authority be turned over to the deans than Burish eventually accepted. The provost has called for a new budgeting approach that puts control in his office, but works to decentralize some of the budget planning and responsibility for graduate assistance to colleges and departments through strategic budgetary partnerships.

Ad hoc committee member Dan Myers, sociology, said the provosts presentation last month and the seriousness with which a new vice president is being sought are encouraging advances to those who seek the advance of the Universitys research agenda.

Ad hoc committee member Seth Brown, a chemist who also chairs the Faculty Senate, views the latest developments in tandem with Burishs plans to identify and fundprograms of preeminence.A provost-appointed steering committee will be working during the coming year as the new vice president is identified. That should set the stage fortangible resultsto be seen in the 2007-08 academic year.

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