Old College is located on UGA's north campus. (Photo/Jason Born)

While four finalists will be publicly addressing University of Georgia students, faculty and staff over the next two weeks as part of the interview process to replace former UGA provost Pamela Whitten, the importance of a university provost may not be immediately obvious.

The list was recently narrowed down to:

  • Rahul Shrivastav: UGA vice president for instruction
  • Beate Schmittmann: Dean of Iowa State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Jack Hu: Vice President for Research at the University of Michigan
  • Elizabeth Spiller: Dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of California, Davis

Each candidate will present from 9:30-10:30 a.m. in the Chapel on allotted days. Shrivastav will speak on Feb. 5, Schmittmann on Feb. 7, Hu on Feb. 11 and Spiller on Feb. 13.

So, what exactly does the provost do, and why should you care about this decision?

The second highest administrative position at the university, officially titled senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, is incorporated in almost every aspect of daily life at UGA.

“The provost seeks to provide resources that students need to be successful,” said Student Government Association President Ammishaddai Grand-Jean. “I encourage all students to attend the provost speeches, ask questions and make their voices heard. President Morehead truly values the input and perspective of students.”

As the chief academic officer, the position involves promoting a campus centered on teaching, research and public service. The provost oversees everything from Greek life and university housing to improved research practices and organized service projects.

“The provost of any institution, especially at UGA, plays a pivotal role in students’ learning experience,” Grand-Jean said. “They play a major role in aiding students to achieve their dreams and goals by removing unnecessary obstacles.”

The 17 deans that make up UGA’s schools and colleges report to the provost as well as several other academic offices.

Even bodies like the Georgia Museum of Art and Performing Arts Center have representatives who must report to the provost.

The provost ensures the university maintains its growth and recognition. Notable rankings, such as UGA recently being named the 13th-best public university by U.S. News & World Report, are one goal.

In August, President Jere W. Morehead announced the official establishment of a 24-person search committee made up of faculty, students, administrators and alumni to aid the provost selection process.

When Whitten left UGA in July 2018 to become president of Kennesaw State University, Libby Morris, director of the UGA Institute of Higher Education, filled the role as interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost of the university. Morris will continue serving in this position until a new appointment is announced.

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