Emory University will host open forums and public receptions in December for four finalists in contention to become the next provost and executive vice president of academic affairs.

The person chosen will succeed Earl Lewis, who left the University after eight years of service to become the president at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The University announced Lewis’ eventual retirement in May.

Finalists are Meredith Jung-En Woo, dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at University of Virginia; Emory’s own Claire Elizabeth Sterk, current acting provost; Steven W. Matson, dean of the graduate school at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Paul Wesley Brandt-Rauf, dean of the School of Public Health at University of Illinois, Chicago.

University President James W. Wagner appointed a search advisory committee of 16 students, faculty, staff and administrators late last school year.

In collaboration with the search firm R. William Funk & Associates, the committee spent the summer identifying candidates who were on “the cutting edge of higher education,” according to Candler School of Theology Dean and head of the committee Jan Love.

The committee held 11 listening sessions throughout September across the University to determine the Emory community opinion, Love said. In October, the committee had off-site interviews with about a 50-person subset of the original 160-person pool. By early November, the committee had narrowed the search to the four finalists, according to Love.

Throughout the coming month, the finalists will experience the “legendary Emory hospitality” for about 40 hours on four separate occasions, Love said.

The potential provosts will meet a range of people, including the president’s cabinet, the council of deans, the search advisory committee and a subset of the board of trustees. Faculty, staff and students will also have the opportunity to interact with the candidates and fill out feedback forms for the committee at the open forum sessions.

“All four of these candidates are already quite accomplished and remarkable leaders in their own light and are fully capable of being the provost at Emory or a range of other institutions,” Love said.

After these visits, Wagner will make the final decision. Wagner laid out the responsibilities of the provost in a post on the search committee’s website.

“The provost’s job is a formidable one, though we have just seen it performed gracefully and skillfully for nearly eight years by Earl Lewis,” said Wagner. “On a personal level, the provost must be an effective and complementary working partner with the president and Emory’s other two executive vice presidents. On an institutional level, we look to the provost as the ultimate steward of academic integrity and the driver of academic excellence and achievement.”

The provost is second in charge to the president as principal academic officer.

The role oversees academic policies and activities, faculty promotion and the tenure process and leads the deans and co-chairs the Ways and Means Committee, a group that focuses on finances for the Board of Trustees, according to the Office of Provost website.

The provost works with Wagner and two other executive vice presidents – the executive vice president for finance and administration and the executive vice president for health affairs – to create and implement their University-wide strategic plan that “fulfill[s] a community vision of Emory,” according to the Provost Leadership Statement.

Just as the Emory community will be reviewing the candidates in December, the candidates will be reviewing the University.

The candidates are not looking for a new job, but rather, the committee recruited them, according to Love. She said all four are content with their current work.

“We have to sell them on our opportunity as much as we have to judge whether they are right for us,” Love said.

Most importantly, the committee hopes that students will take advantage of the open forums, according to Love.

“I hope the students will not miss the opportunity to listen in and ask questions about the issues that face higher education today and get engaged with whom may be our next leader,” Love said.

 – By Karishma Mehrotra