Provost search committee meets for first time, students seek proponent of multidisciplinary learning

Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc

The search committee for the next university provost met for the first time Monday. The committee’s selection will replace Thomas LeBlanc, who will leave the University of Miami at the end of this academic year to be the 17th president of George Washington University.

The position involves the responsibilities of both the chief academic officer and the chief budget officer. LeBlanc’s replacement will be in charge of funding, student affairs and admissions, and he or she will oversee the 11 schools and colleges. The new provost will also work with UM President Julio Frenk to continue the administration’s “Roadmap to Our New Century,” the long-term plan for improving the university.

Arrix Ryce, the student representative on the search committee, said he met LeBlanc twice before – once at a Housing and Residential Life event and a second time when Ryce was appointed to one of Frenk’s Roadmap committees – and was impressed with the provost’s approachability.

“He showed me he wasn’t just a top administrator and that he was invested in whatever he was doing,” Ryce, a junior, said.

During his time at UM, LeBlanc coordinated academic programs and helped found new institutes and centers, such as the Center for Computational Science and the Office of Civic and Community Engagement. He also taught in the computer science, electrical and computer engineering departments.

Ryce said for the next provost, he is looking for someone who will be there for the students, especially since the provost arguably “has the most influence on campus” because so many administrators report to him, including Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely.

“It’s important that their focus is on education, is student-driven, and believes in education liberty – allowing work across the colleges,” Ryce said.

Multidisciplinary work is especially important to Ryce. He is majoring in biochemistry and created an independent major to study religion, medicine and society.

Ashley Pittaluga, student government vice president, is looking forward to meeting the new provost before she graduates in May.

“I am confident that the committee will make sure the students are prioritized,” Pittaluga said.

Before LeBlanc, Luis Glaser was provost for 18 years and also was the director for biological science and directed a research lab. Both candidates who were originally considered for the position alongside LeBlanc also had backgrounds in physical sciences.

No interim executive vice president and provost has been named. There is no set deadline for finding the replacement, but ultimately, the decision will be President Frenk’s.