Interim Academic Structure in Place

February 1, 2000

Nick Marinello

In a move that may offer a clearer image of how Tulane President Scott Cowen envisions the administrative structure of the university, two members of the faculty have received interim appointments to administer academics on the uptown campus.

Memos sent to the university community in January by Cowen announced the appointment of Paul Barron as interim senior vice president for academic affairs and Jack Grubbs as special assistant to the president and chair of the newly minted Undergraduate Education Council.

The appointments were made after Martha Gilliland, who has been provost at Tulane for three years, announced that she would be leaving the university. Barron, a professor of law, and Grubbs, a professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering, begin their appointments on Feb. 1.

"This is an opportunity to try out some new ways of structuring the provost's office," said Cowen, who added that he arrived at the structure after consulting with the President's Cabinet, the President's Faculty Advisory Committee, the Uptown Deans' Council and the staff of the Office of the Provost. "We'll be able to learn a lot during this interim period of time and make some modifications along the way."

Cowen, who said the interim period may last as long as 18 months, added that the appointments reflect "a continuing effort to move our organizational structure into line with the strategic plan." Cowen said he would not begin a search to permanently fill the top academic officer's position until "four or five months from now."

Barron, who has been on the law faculty at Tulane for 24 years, has served as vice dean of the law school, vice chair of the University Senate and chair of the senate's Committee on Educational Policy. He is the outgoing chair of the board of Touro Infirmary, and past president of the boards of Touro Synagogue, Jewish Family Service and Regional AIDS Interfaith Network.

He is also member of the National Academy of Arbitrators and, as an arbitrator and mediator, has resolved more than 500 cases in the last 26 years,a skill he suggests may well be useful in his new role at Tulane. It's a role that will take shape in the weeks to come, he said.

"Jack and I will be working together to see how this structure is going to work," said Barron, who will oversee all academic issues related to non-health sciences faculty (i.e., those faculty in architecture, business, engineering, liberal arts and sciences, law, social work and University College).

In addition, Barron will have purview over academic computing and technology, libraries, international programs and students, the Graduate School, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the National Center for the Urban Community.

"You can go through the 36-month strategic planning document and look at all the places that say 'provost',except for the one big chunk dealing with undergraduate education, and that's what I'll be doing," summed up Barron.

What Barron calls, at least for now, "nebulous" are areas that seem to report to both him and the special assistant to the president. Those deans who preside over schools with both graduate and undergraduate programs, for example, may initially present gray areas in the interim structure.

"There is no road map here except for the strategic plan," agreed Grubbs. "But Paul and I have decided that the best way to go about it is for us to be as knowledgeable as we can about what's going on in each other's ballparks."

Grubbs, who joined the Tulane faculty in 1998 after a 34-year military career, was most recently a professor and chair of the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy, where he had taught for 18 years.

In his first full year at Tulane, Grubbs received the university's Award for Teaching Excellence in Undergraduate Education. In his role as special assistant to the president, Grubbs will provide support and oversight to the deans of Newcomb and Tulane College, the vice president for enrollment management, the vice president for student affairs/dean of students and the deans of the schools of architecture, business, engineering, liberal arts and sciences and University College in undergraduate matters.

He will also chair an Undergraduate Education Council that includes the deans and vice presidents mentioned above. The council's mission is to coordinate planning for undergraduate programs in a way that is consistent with strategic planning, said Cowen.

At press time, Grubbs had not had a chance to convene the committee but said he expected its members to meet every other week. "I'm relatively new here," he said, "but I plan to get to know each player and facilitate our move to a common goal."

Grubbs said he hopes to be able to identify those "areas of synergy" among the undergraduate programs during the next 18 months and move the undergraduate experience away from being "a series of silos" and toward a more collaborative and integrated experience for students.

"The ultimate customers are the students," said Grubbs. Barron said among his primary jobs will be to deal with the part of the strategic plan that concerns graduate programs as well as to attend to increasing merit pay for faculty and increasing uniformity in the application of promotion and tenure.

Barron added that he looks forward to working with the professional and clerical staff in the provost's office, which will remain intact through the transition. Both men suggested they would be playing many of the notes of the interim period by ear. Cowen agreed. "Anything is possible at this stage," he said.

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