The Provost Puzzle

SLU’s Hunt for a Chief Academic Officer

Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis University

Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis University

The turning of the leaves and the return to school has brought with it many new changes on SLU’s campus—academically, socially and administratively. 


The most prominent gap in the administration, and also the most anticipated appointment, is that of Provost, who will be overseeing internal affairs and acting as the chief academic officer for all of SLU’s schools and interdisciplinary studies. It was announced in May that Chester Gillis, P.h.D., the former occupant of the position, had chosen to step down in order to spend time at home with his wife in Wilmington, North Carolina.


Since then, the President’s office has selected Michael Lewis, P.h.D., to be the interim Provost while a search committee actively hunts for a permanent replacement. Regular updates have been released by the search committee to the faculty and student body, outlining the timeline, hiring process and credentials they are looking for in applicants. 


According to Jonathan Sawday, the Chair of the Provost Search Committee, they “hope that whoever is appointed to this position will be able to help us to collectively shape our academic and intellectual identity in the future.”  


Community involvement is an integral part of their search, as they plan to have meetings with the heads of various colleges, departments, the Student Government Association and one open-panel meeting that is available for anyone to attend and voice their opinions, concerns or questions. 


With the goal set to have a new acting Provost by the summer of 2021, SLU has hired the consultancy firm WittKieffer, which does consulting nationally.


While some may express concern about a Chicago-based corporate firm overseeing this important decision, the university has a familiar face on the team. Bree Liddell, who will be assisting WittKieffer’s senior partner, is a SLU alum and previously assisted in SLU’s search for the dean of the business school. 


Moving into September, the committee will begin assessing the candidates, with the active recruiting stage of the hiring process continuing through January. 


Though COVID-19 has clouded many aspects of the day-to-day operations, the guiding principles of the search remain, “diversity and inclusion, transparency and confidentiality, and our Catholic and Jesuit mission and identity,” said Sawday. The committee holds much confidence that the right candidate will present themselves.