The American University, a dynamic institution of higher education in the heart of Washington, DC, seeks exceptional candidates to fill the position of provost—a career-defining opportunity to partner with American University’s new president in leading a university embarking on an ambitious process of transformation.
Reporting directly to the president, who has led the university since 2017, the provost is the chief academic officer responsible for setting priorities and driving excellence across the university’s educational and research programs. The provost is the president’s key strategic partner in enhancing the profile and prominence of the university, expanding its intellectual culture, expanding and allocating resources, and building institutional partnerships.
The portfolio of the AU provost includes the university’s College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Education; Kogod School of Business; School of Communication; School of International Service; School of Professional and Extended Studies; School of Public Affairs; Washington College of Law; the University Library; and a team of deans and vice provosts who oversee undergraduate and graduate studies, academic administration, enrollment management, financial aid, and institutional research.
In addition to the academic unit deans and the library, the provost has eight direct reports: the dean of academic affairs and senior vice provost; vice provost for research/dean of graduate studies; vice provost for academic student services/dean of undergraduate education; vice provost for academic administration; vice provost for undergraduate enrollment; special assistant to provost; executive assistant to provost; and assistant provost of institutional research and assessment.
American University's new provost must be well versed in the challenges and opportunities facing higher education and society more broadly. The provost must also be committed to partnering with AU's president on taking AU to the next level as a university leader in the future of learning, the future of scholarship, and the future of work.
The provost will play a key role in the implementation of a new strategic plan for AU, one that is built upon the foundation of inclusive excellence. Strategic priorities will focus on using partnerships to achieve excellence, ensuring AU demonstrates strength in both teaching and research, innovating in experiential and lifetime learning, and expanding AU’s longstanding commitment to combining its scholarship with service and shaping public policy.
In order to achieve these objectives, the new provost will excel at building, leading, and working within teams; balancing strategic and operational issues; representing AU to external constituents; fundraising; infusing the institution with a commitment to continuous improvement – all built upon and strengthened through diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The provost has direct management oversight of a $433.3 million Academic Affairs division budget, which accounts for 60.4 percent of the total university operating budget. The provost provides leadership for the planning, development, implementation, assessment, and improvement of all academic programs, policies, budget, and supporting infrastructure. The position is responsible for ensuring the university’s academic excellence through faculty recruitment, retention, and coordination of university-level review of all tenure and promotion actions. Building on the exceptional accomplishments of the past decade and working within a culture of ongoing innovation, the next provost will have significant opportunity to strengthen the academic and research enterprise of the university, while providing the academic vision and thought leadership to advance AU nationally and internationally.
Accordingly, ideal candidates will possess exceptional scholarly credentials, proven academic administrative leadership experience and accomplishments, and superb communications skills. Consistent with the university’s culture, the next provost will be a collaborative and transparent leader, committed to innovation and partnerships, and focused on enhancing teaching, learning, and research across disciplines.
Critical Leadership Capabilities
To lead the faculty of an institution distinguished by its commitment to teaching, research, and community engagement, the American University provost must be eligible for tenure, at the rank of full professor, in a department or program within the university. Therefore, all candidates should possess the following characteristics and leadership traits:
- An unwavering commitment to the scholar-teacher ideal in the undergraduate, graduate, professional education, and research settings;
- Experience overseeing complex organizations, as well as a sophisticated understanding of the academic, financial, and operational aspects that characterize a leading research university;
- The demonstrated ability to advance select strategic priorities and address institutional challenges in a timely, firm, collaborative and constructive manner;
- A proven history of successfully interacting with and maximizing the abilities and talents of people and units beyond the provost’s own area of academic expertise;
- Demonstrated experience successfully supporting and advocating for the core institutional values of diversity, equity, and inclusion;
- An authentic, engaging interpersonal style while interacting with a vital and engaged constituency that includes faculty members in each academic unit; students at all levels of their educational journey; administrators; staff; alumni; and external constituents;
- Experience as a leading organizational spokesperson with a demonstrable history of flourishing at the task of raising an institution’s profile, maximizing awareness of its capacities, strengthening public appreciation of its value, and stewarding its resources;
- A quantifiable talent for attracting, mentoring, and retaining exceptionally talented individuals across all academic disciplines and functions while assembling a vibrant team of leaders who collaborate effectively to build campus strengths and foster innovation; and
- Demonstrated intellectual curiosity, creative and entrepreneurial spirit, bold thinking, and the willingness to take calculated risks that yield measurably positive rewards.
Academic Vision and Strategic Leadership
In close collaboration with the president, cabinet, deans, and faculty, the provost will build on the institution’s significant strengths to support excellence, challenge traditional practices, embrace innovation, and develop new initiatives to address emerging opportunities. In an increasingly competitive global market for research funding, faculty, students, and philanthropy, the provost will evaluate the sustainability, needs, and excellence of current programs to ensure that the university effectively deploys resources that support its academic mission. The provost will cultivate and develop the partnerships required to ensure the continued expansion of the research enterprise at AU, thereby raising the institution’s national and international profile on a continuous basis. As the academic face of the university, the provost will develop and articulate positions on, and responses to, the changing landscape of higher education.
Inclusive and Collaborative Leadership
In an institution with a strong history of shared governance, the next provost of AU will be an expansive, open-minded leader who is ready to listen and be prepared to make decisions. The next provost must have the ability to bring people together, to work collaboratively with the president and other senior leaders, to create an environment where all voices are invited and heard, to facilitate challenging discussions, to make decisions about where American University will expand and redirect its efforts, and articulate decisions in a manner that transparently builds understanding and buy-in around all decisions. The provost will be an exemplary leader who fosters a university-wide culture of diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the institution.
Financial and Budgetary Acumen
The chosen candidate will navigate the differing financial management structures of AU’s schools with exceptional fluency while setting priorities and allocating resources in a manner that is objective-based, transparent, innovative and data-driven.
In a higher-education landscape that demands planning to anticipate systemic change, the provost will possess a demonstrable skill for crafting strategies to effectively manage the university’s long-term financial health. The provost will leverage big data and evolving technologies to deploy AU’s operating and capital resources, direct the institution’s academic priorities, and exercise financial decision making with rigor and discipline.
The successful candidate will have unquestioned integrity and will be:
- Ambitious and forward-leaning
- A community builder with a high emotional intelligence (EQ)
- Creative and agile
- Visible and approachable
About the University
Chartered by Congress in 1893, American University is a highly selective student-centered research institution defined by its global outlook, practical idealism, and passion for public service. AU’s nationally and internationally acclaimed faculty are renowned for their commitment to excellence in scholarship and teaching and for sponsoring programs that draw upon the extraordinary cultural, scientific, public affairs, legal, business, international, and communication resources in the greater metropolitan area of Washington, DC. Recognized for its emphasis on personalized teaching and experiential education, the university provides for the direct involvement of faculty and students in the institutions and culture of the nation’s capital.
The scope of AU’s teaching and research programs and the diversity of its faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and student body reflects American University’s status as a national and global institution. The cosmopolitan, multicultural campus enrolls more than 13,000 students in undergraduate, masters, doctoral, and professional degree programs. The students come from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. territories, and more than 135 countries.
To ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the foundation of the university community and its work, American University recently launched its Plan for Inclusive Excellence in 2018. The plan committed AU to investing $121 million to advance diversity and inclusion in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, including $53 million for scholarships to expand access in FY 2018.
AU values public service and encourages the integration of academic programs and co-curricular experiences within the local, national, and international communities. It combines the finest qualities of a liberal arts education, the relevance of professional practice, and the intensity of a vibrant research university. Unique to this setting is the inextricable link between AU and pinnacle institutions in the Washington, DC, region, a setting that provides fertile ground for research, internships, and collaborations. AU is not just located in the nation’s capital—it has vitally contributed to the District of Columbia’s dynamic growth as a sophisticated city and a world-class destination.
American University’s 84-acre campus, an officially designated arboretum, provides an ideal collegiate setting, characterized by Federal-style architecture and the contemporary Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen Arts Center, a state-of-the-art exhibition and performance space that serves both the university and greater DC communities. In addition, a new $90 million Science building, featuring advanced laboratory facilities and classroom space, is scheduled to open in Fall 2020. American University became the first US urban research university to achieve carbon neutrality. Campus-wide investments in excess of $400 million have resulted in more than one million new square feet and renovations of existing properties. And this year, the university is launching its largest philanthropy campaign in the school’s history.
AU is among the ten fastest rising institutions in US News and World Report over the last decade. In just the past five years, AU improved 29 spots on the Scholarly Research Index released by Academic Analytics Data. In recognition of American University’s enhancements to its research infrastructure, and recent growth in the STEM fields, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education reclassified AU as a “Higher Research Activity” (R2) Institution in 2015.
The 2014 Middle States accreditation review team recognized American University as an agile, entrepreneurial, and interdisciplinary institution. The team’s report said, “The entire American University community is to be commended for its efforts and its success; American University is stronger, more vibrant, more relevant and better positioned as a result of what has transpired over the past six years.” It called AU a transformed institution, and with good reason.
The university has established a culture of innovation that underlies this transformation. One recent example is RiSE (Re-imagining the Student Experience), which aspires to transform systems, processes, and culture to deliver an integrated student experience for today’s diverse, technologically sophisticated, and stressed college students—one that will help students succeed and thrive. Initially funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation, the RiSE initiative focuses on best practices within and outside higher education to advance student, faculty, and staff experiences by use of design, integrative planning, and technology.
Financial & Operational Highlights
- Operating budget (FY2019): $718 million. FY2019 concludes the tenth year of the current strategic plan. American University operates in a two-year budget cycle.
- Endowment funds (market value as of March 2018): $690 million
- Gifts and pledges from private sources (FY2017): $61 million
- Research revenues from all sources (FY2017): $21 million
- Full-time undergraduate tuition (AY2018–19): $47,640
- Fiscal year: May 1 to April 30
American University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution that operates in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, personal appearance, gender identity and expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, veteran status, an individual’s genetic information, or any other bases under federal or local laws (collectively “Protected Bases”) in its programs and activities.
To submit your own application materials or nominate someone to serve as the next provost of American University, please send an email message with supporting materials to AUProvost@spencerstuart.com.