University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

President Kelley names Paul LeBel Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

I am pleased to announce that I have appointed Paul LeBel as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Provost LeBel has been serving in an interim capacity since February 2009, when I asked him to leave the position of Dean of the School of Law and join my leadership team in this new role. When I asked Provost LeBel to set aside a law dean’s job that he clearly loves to take on this university administration role, I knew that I was asking him to make a sacrifice that would benefit UND and help me provide the leadership that our university needs. In the time that he has served as the interim, Provost LeBel has demonstrated that leadership, as well as sound judgment, problem-solving ability, and the instincts and values of a true academic. His performance in that position has earned my respect and complete trust and that of many others.

In agreeing to join my team in 2009, Provost LeBel requested that I not begin a search for a permanent provost for at least 18 months, so that he could address three priorities that he had identified from his years as law dean: first, improving the decision-making culture of the campus; second, increasing faculty morale; and third, developing a true partnership between the academic units and the fundraising arm of the university. I made it clear at the time that he had my full support and the authority to exercise all of the responsibilities of the institution’s chief academic officer. In each of those areas, significant progress has been made, and I know that progress will continue under his leadership. When he accepted the interim appointment, Provost LeBel stated that he would not at that time commit to being a candidate for the position, indicating that he doubted that he would enjoy the position or do it well. I am pleased that both of those reservations have been unequivocally dispelled.

This is a unique moment for UND, in which continuity of vision and leadership are of critical importance. Last year, I asked Provost LeBel to direct a campus-wide effort to identify a few transformative initiatives for moving our university from great to exceptional. The conversations about the future of UND, facilitated by consultants from the STRATUS Group, have engaged the entire campus community in a process of identifying strategic priorities that will guide us as we move forward. With a $300 million comprehensive fundraising campaign publicly launched earlier this month and a state legislative session beginning in fewer than three months, maintaining the quality of the academic leadership and continuity in the Provost’s position is especially important to sustaining our momentum and realizing our vision.

I do not take lightly any possible perception that appointing a Provost without conducting a full national search raises questions about my commitment to the shared governance norm of higher education. To that end, I have consulted with Vice Presidents, Deans, Department Chairs, the leaders of the University Senate, Staff Senate, and Student Senate, as well as leaders and representatives of various external constituencies. Further, a number of people, both on and off our campus, have approached me without prompting to encourage that I remove the “Interim” from Provost LeBel’s title. The overwhelming sentiment that I heard expressed in these conversations favors keeping in the Provost position someone whose record of accomplishment as an interim and whose attitude of empowering others are so widely appreciated and respected. As we move forward at such a pivotal time for our university’s future, I am confident that Provost LeBel will have widespread support from all constituencies, just as he has my full support.

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