What does a provost do? Donald Nieman explains …

When asked to estimate the ratio of time spent in meetings to time doing other work, Provost Nieman responded: "I spend at least 90 percent of my days in the office in meetings and on the phone, leaving lots of e-mail to answer, reports to read, research to do, and memos to write in the evenings — after Leigh Ann and I get Brady to bed." Photo by Jonathan Cohen

When Donald Nieman, dean of Harpur College of Arts and Sciences, became the new provost of Binghamton University on July 1, there were a few whispers: “What, exactly, is a provost?”

Among the administration, there were the obligatory provost jokes. What? You didn’t know that the word “provost” used to mean prison warden?

So we asked Nieman, “What does a provost do?”

“The provost is the chief academic officer of the University, and academics are our core mission.”

Nieman is one of five vice presidents; the others are in charge of student affairs, research, administration and external affairs. The eight deans report to the provost.

“The provost leads the Division of Academic Affairs, which encompasses faculty and many of our staff; the recruitment, admission and success of our students; and our research and teaching facilities. As provost, I work closely with the other vice presidents to assure that we serve students effectively and build on Binghamton’s reputation for academic excellence.”

“A provost must understand how all the schools relate to one another, where investment needs to be made and how growth in one area affects another area.”

“The mission of the Decker School of Nursing or the Watson School of Engineering is different from the mission of Harpur College, but all three schools have to talk to one another because nursing and engineering students must take courses in science and math as well as in the humanities, arts and social sciences.

“We’re investing $2.6 million in hiring new faculty in the coming year. Working with the deans, I have to decide where those faculty will be hired.”

Read more here