After current Provost Joseph Klesner announced in September that he would step down at the end of this academic year, the question of who would take his place was up in the air. Five months later, the College has an answer: Associate Provost Jeffrey A. Bowman will serve as Kenyon’s next provost, effective July 1, 2020.
Alongside his role as a professor of history, Bowman has taken on a variety of leadership roles at the College over the years, including resident director of the Kenyon-Exeter program, chair of the history department, co-chair of Campus Senate, chair of the Tenure and Promotion Committee and chair of the faculty.
“Kenyon’s faculty is second to none in its commitment to undergraduate teaching, and so it is deeply fitting that Jeff Bowman has been named provost,” President Sean Decatur said in a news bulletin. “He is a passionate teacher and skillful administrator, intensely committed to the promise of liberal education. I look forward to working with him to fulfill that promise in Kenyon’s third century.”
For Bowman, this promotion will add upon his three years of prior experience in Bailey House, where he first set up shop in July of 2017 when he was appointed as an Associate Provost. Bowman is excited to remain in the tudor-style house as provost, where he says joint responsibilities among senior staff foster a collaborative environment that extends out to the office’s work overseeing faculty.
“What makes it interesting is we have a faculty that is wonderfully fertile in developing these ideas, that’s wonderfully productive and thoughtful about research and teaching in all kinds of different ways,” Bowman said. “So that’s one of the things that’s a real pleasure about working in this office — is that you get to see that energy and commitment on the part of the faculty and wherever possible support their interests and goals.”
While the president is often seen as the face of the College, representing the institution at national events and reporting to the Board of Trustees, Kathy Krynski, recipient of the Himmelright Professorship in Economics and chair of the search committee for Klesner’s replacement, says the provost’s job is essential to maintaining a positive image from an academic standpoint.
“The provost is the leader of the academic division, and so he or she—we’ve had both—have an important role in helping to hire the faculty and help to create an
environment where faculty can grow and prosper, both in terms of their teaching and in terms of their scholarship and [ability to] contribute to the College,” Krynski said.
The main responsibilities of the provost include the recruitment, retention and mentoring of faculty. This includes things like organizing faculty reviews, overseeing search committees, developing programs for faculty development and mentoring, reviewing curriculum and pedagogical practices, and facilitating collaboration across academic divisions. A number of offices also fall under the supervision of the Office of the Provost, including the Office of Academic Advising, the Career Development Office, the Center for Global Engagement and the Brown Family Environmental Center, among others.
Kyrnski, who served as associate provost from 1999-2002, said she was first contacted in late October to chair the search committee. She then met with President Decatur to determine who should serve on the committee, which ended up comprising of Professor of Anthropology Bruce Hardy, Associate Professor of English Sarah Heidt ’97, Professor of Biology Harry Itagaki, Roy T. Wortman Distinguished Professor of History Wendy Singer and Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama Jonathan Tazewell ’84.
Since the search for provost was internal, the committee solicited nominations among faculty and administrators and then extended invitations to apply for the position to the nominees. Krynski said gathering feedback from colleagues via a variety of outlets — such as open forums, Google forms and online statements — on the kinds of characteristics and skills the new Provost should have was crucial to ensuring a successful search process.
Once the committee had narrowed down a set of candidates, they presented them to Decatur, who conducted interviews alongside senior staff before ultimately making the final decision.
Krynski said, while the committee was confident that all of the candidates were well-qualified, she sees why the president chose Bowman.
“He’s a great candidate, and I can understand why he was chosen in part because his experience is very recent in the provost office, so he’s sort of on top of what’s going on there, what the issues are currently,” Kyrnski said. “And he’s also got a tremendous amount of experience in terms of—he’s been chair of the faculty, he’s been chair of the tenure promotion committee and a member of that committee — those are all things that were kind of high on the list of kinds of experiences that would be helpful.”
As provost, Bowman plans to help facilitate a smooth transition of faculty during the West Quad project and expand inclusive pedagogical practices that faculty in the natural sciences have worked hard to develop.
“One of the things that we’ve been thinking about … is to make sure that the work that they’ve done over there [in the natural sciences] can inspire and inform the teaching that we do at the college more generally,” Bowman said. “So that the momentum and the ideas that they’ve worked on over there with this grant support can also percolate into other parts of College, and that the insights that they’ve developed in working with these action groups and with Kenyon students can help inspire other people in the faculty to think about teaching styles.”