Searches for provost, advancement vice chancellor on hold because of COVID-19

The national searches to permanently fill two vacancies on the Executive Council at Western Carolina University have been put on hold because of challenges presented by the spread of the coronavirus illness, or COVID-19.

The search for the university’s next provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs is suspended indefinitely, while the search for the next vice chancellor for advancement has been postponed and will resume later this spring, if conditions related to coronavirus allow.

“After consulting with search committee chair Dale Carpenter, we are suspending the provost search for an indefinite period of time,” WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown said. “I had asked the committee to work so that we could name our next provost by May 1, and the travel difficulties and social distancing recommendations related to the coronavirus situation have made that impossible.”

Even if conditions were to improve in the late spring, the university would not conduct a search for its chief academic officer during the summer months, when the majority of faculty members are not on campus, Brown said.

Chancellor Kelli R. Brown

“The earliest that we could possibly resume the search would be in the fall, but that also presents its own set of difficulties as it would entail bringing in a new provost in the middle of an academic year,” she said. “We will continue to assess conditions and evaluate the best approach for this search.”

In the meantime, Richard Starnes, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will remain in the role of interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

The search for the next leader of WCU’s fund- and friend-raising division also has been delayed by the global pandemic, Brown said.

One candidate for the vice chancellor for advancement position visited campus March 15-17, just as WCU and the University of North Carolina System initiated measures designed to help fight the spread of the COVID-19 illness, including restrictions on travel and limitations on meetings and gatherings of more than 10 people.

“Search committee chair Craig Fowler and I agreed that we need to postpone this search for the time being,” Brown said. “It is our hope that we might be able to bring our other candidates to campus in late May or early June, but we will make that determination later in the semester.”

Jamie Raynor, assistant vice chancellor for development and alumni engagement at WCU, will continue to serve as interim vice chancellor of advancement.