Navigating a virtual provost search during the pandemic

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David Forgues
Search Committee Chair and Vice President of Human Resources, Diversity, and Inclusion
California State University, Fullerton

Carolyn Thomas
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
California State University, Fullerton

The below piece tells the story of Cal State Fullerton's experience conducting a provost search virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. The story is written from two perspectives: the first from the institution’s Vice President of Human Resources, Diversity, and Inclusion and Search Committee Chair; and the second from the now sitting provost. By sharing their experience, the article authors hope other institutions that find themselves embarking on a search in this continued virtual environment can gain ideas that positively impact the process.



Perspective #1: David Forgues, Search Committee Chair and Vice President of Human Resources, Diversity, and Inclusion

Pre-pandemic: Starting a provost search

When our interim president was made permanent by the board in May of 2019, high on his list of priorities was to search for and appoint a new provost. Three interim provosts had served in the position since the last permanent provost departed. As we moved into fall and kicked off the search, we had no idea what was in store. We planned for this search along the normal cycle with groundwork to be completed in fall and advertising and recruitment over winter break and into the start of the spring semester. That would set us up for first round interviews in February and March 2020 and campus interviews before the end of the term. We were excited for our new team member to join us for our annual cabinet retreat over the summer.

With a diverse and engaged search committee formed--of which I was fortunate to be named chair--the plan unfolded nicely. Our advertisements and outreach efforts yielded an extremely strong pool of highly qualified candidates who were excited about the opportunity to serve our campus community. We struggled to narrow down the pool to those we wanted to engage with further. After much deliberation, we identified an excellent group of semi-finalists. In the last week of February, I contacted the candidates to invite them to first-round Zoom interviews planned for mid-March. By that time, COVID was consuming more and more of our attention each day but none of us yet grasped what the next few weeks would bring.

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