UK holds open forums for new provost candidates


The Main Building on Friday, April 10, 2020, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Saige McFarlane

Candidates for UK’s next provost gave open forums for faculty and staff over the past two weeks.

The former provost, David W. Blackwell, did not extend his tenure last July, as he wanted to pursue a position in higher education at another institution.

Last December, university president Eli Capilouto announced that a search committee would be put in place to find the next provost.

Four candidates visited campus this past week. They all answered the same prompt in their forums: “What do you think the role of the provost in leading the deans, colleges and academic support areas is in times of uncertainty, challenge and opportunity?”

The first candidate who gave their forum was Robert Blouin. He served as former provost at UNC-Chapel Hill and is currently dean at the School of Pharmacy at that institution.

Blouin is an alumnus of the University of Kentucky. He also held many positions in the College of Pharmacy, including serving as the dean.

Blouin’s forum focused on the importance of collaboration among faculty and staff.

The next candidate was Cynthia Young. She is currently a founding dean for the College of Science at Clemson University. Young formerly served as vice provost at the University of Central Florida.

One of the key ideas that Young discussed during her forum was the importance of communication between faculty, staff and students.

She explained this concept further as “engaging stakeholders and listening to stakeholders helps to inform better leadership.”

Young has held many leadership roles, and she said her leadership principles include adaptability, accountability, evidence, excellence, trust, communication, inclusivity and collaboration.

“The number one thing I have learned as a leader is that you have to press pause sometimes,” she said.

Young said she learned that pressing pause helped the most with adaptability and communication during the pandemic.

The third candidate was the senior vice provost at the University of Michigan, Amy Dittmar. She has been the provost for academic and budgetary affairs since 2020.

Dittmar’s forum emphasized the topic of students’ mental health.

She discussed her role with the mental health task force at the University of Michigan and how this made her realize how important the mental health of students really is.

“We certainly knew before the pandemic that there was a mental health crisis among youth; that wasn’t a surprise. But the pandemic certainly amplified it,” she said. “At the same time, the institutionalized racism some students were facing on campus was an additional pressure that became more apparent, as well as the academic stress the students were under.”

The last candidate to give their forum was Robert DiPaola, who has been UK’s acting provost since last July. Before that, he was the dean of the College of Medicine.

Since DiPaola has been serving as acting provost, he has seen for himself how important this role is.

He discussed the significance of working together and collaboration in his forum.

Another thing he talked extensively about was re-accreditation for UK. Re-accreditation is the process of reviewing the accreditation of an institution, which is important because it determines if an institution meets the minimum quality standards.

As acting provost, DiPaola has participated in the first stages of re-accreditation. Because of this, he knows that re-accreditation is a key role that he would continue if he gets the position.

Capilouto will make a decision after he receives feedback from the committee. It is the university’s aim to have the next provost start next fall.