U. of Delaware candidate selected as provost

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Last Thursday, March 19, President Pestello announced the selection of Dr. Nancy Brickhouse as provost. Brickhouse will replace Dr. Ellen Harshman, effective July 1. She previously served as the University of Delaware’s Deputy Provost of Academic Affairs.

Her appointment is the result of many months of searching by an 11-person committee. Each of the four candidates for the position visited campus and took part in an open forum.

Brickhouse earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemistry and a doctorate in science education. She has held administrative positions at the University of Delaware since 2002.

She describes her position as follows: “The provost provides leadership for the work of the faculty – teaching, scholarship, outreach. The work of the provost is focused on providing new and improved educational opportunities for students – in the classroom, in research labs, in partnerships in the community and abroad.  As an administrator I seek to stay focused on a commitment to excellence, transparency, and collaboration. My job is to make other people successful – and nothing is more important than student success.”

Brickhouse’s career – from student to teacher to administrator – has been closely linked to research universities. This translates closely to SLU’s focus on research.

“A lot of cutting-edge research requires faculty to work across disciplines, institutions, and sectors,” she said. “As provost, I can help build the relationships that can seed great research and bring greater visibility to the research done at SLU. Assessing the research infrastructure (both intellectual and physical) and determining how to best invest resources where they will have the greatest impact will also be a high priority for me.”

Her specialization in strategy, which received special attention in President Pestello’s announcement message, guides her interaction with those who come under the influence of her decisions as well as how she communicates with them.

“Communication is very important – and listening is as important as speaking. As part of our strategic planning efforts at UD, I met with faculty groups and student groups all across campus to ascertain their views for what UD should be doing differently in the future. Our undergraduate students really wanted a stronger focus on sustainability – both in terms of our institutional practices and in terms of the curriculum. This emphasis on sustainability was also shared by faculty across campus.”

Brickhouse registered the recent rhetorical climate on campus when she visited.

“When I met with student leaders at SLU as part of the interview, they expressed a desire for core curricular requirements focused on social justice,” she said. “This commitment to the mission of the university was inspiring. I look forward to hearing more about what students take the social justice mission to mean and how that can be best developed in the educational experiences at SLU.”

One remarkable aspect of Brickhouse’s appointment is that this will be her first position held at a Jesuit university. Pestello acknowledged that she demonstrates “an affinity for our Jesuit mission.” Brickhouse herself verified her interest in the mission.

“I really like the fact that when I interviewed there people spoke passionately about the mission of SLU. There is a commitment to an education that pursues both truth and justice – and attracts students who want to commit their lives to serving others.”

Inevitably, taking on the provost position entails a significant move from Delaware, where the bulk of Brickhouse’s career has taken shape. Nonetheless, she looks forward to coming to St. Louis.

“In addition to the people, SLU has a wonderful history and campus,” she said. “Being in the city provides opportunity for engagement in some of the most important challenges of our time.”

With several months to go before officially taking on the role of provost, Brickhouse feels confident and enthusiastic in making SLU the next step in her career.

“I am really excited! The welcome has been warm. I can’t wait to get to work!” she said.