Provost Office Door Sign

What Does A Provost Do?

Provost Office Door Sign
Sign on the door of the Provost Office at Cowell College, photo by Alan Christy

I am starting a new job this summer. I am the new Provost of Cowell College at UC Santa Cruz. This is a new challenge in my career in higher education, which began in 1995, and I step into this job with a mixture of excitement and nervousness.

There isn’t a formal “Provost Training” program here, so I couldn’t really know all that I was going to have to do, or get to do, once I came on the job. I watched my close friend, and team-teaching buddy, Alice Yang, do the job of Provost of Stevenson College for six years, so I had some idea of what I was getting myself into. I could see that it was a job with meetings galore. I could see that it was a job with mind-boggling amounts of paperwork and emails. I could see that it was a job with spreadsheets and budgets. Not quite part of the training to be a historian of Japan, as I am. But I could also see it was a job in which she spent a lot of time helping students, meeting alumni, helping to make the intellectual and cultural life of the college as rich as possible.

The job appeared to be a combination of administrative and social responsibilities and I found that attractive. So I applied and was fortunate to receive an appointment to this post. So for the next three to six years, I will be working as Provost here at Cowell College, the first college established at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

As one of my first formal duties, I attended a day-long retreat of the Council of Provosts (there are nine of us all together) in mid-June. As we planned the coming year’s responsibilities, my colleagues discussed the utility of having a guidebook to the job for future incoming provosts like myself. So, naturally, I was assigned the task of producing that guide. There’s no snark there, I swear! After all, who better to do it than the person who is encountering as new and not yet obvious a whole host of tasks. How many things that have become common sense to the already standing Provosts would actually require a bit of explanation to a newcomer? Once you are accustomed to the minutia of a job it can be tough to recall which things weren’t such common sense at the very beginning. So the thought was that If I can keep track of the varieties of work that I do as I take them all on, I can hopefully write a good de-mystifying guide. I honestly agreed.

This blog is one way to work toward that, recording elements of the job, such as can be recorded in the full light of the public (which is not everything).

But by virtue of living in a Provost House on the college campus, the Provost is also a member of the community. This blog will also be a place where I record what I do as a member of the community, or what it is like to live here. This will hopefully be a de-mystification for students, parents, alumni and those friends of mine who think that by taking on this position I’ve moved over to the side of the ADMINISTRATORS! In fact, I am still very much a member of the faculty, a guy who teaches Japanese and East Asian history, who has a family and a life with the usual passions, struggles and aspirations.

So, what does a Provost do? That’s what we’re here to find out!