The university hired former acting provost Kimo Ah Yun to serve as the permanent provost effective immediately, according to a Monday news release.
Ah Yun is the first person of color to serve as the provost of Marquette. He will also serve as the executive vice president of academic affairs, the release said. It said the university conducted a nine-month search with dozens of candidates across the country. There were four finalists who made two-day visits to the university for interviews with 15 groups of faculty, staff, students and other leaders.
“It is my great privilege to accept the honor and challenge of helping lead Marquette University into the future as its provost,” Ah Yun said in the news release.
He said he will focus on five areas: transparency, diversity, rigor to the student experience, academic excellence and proactive decisions to combat impending challenges to higher education.
“Kimo has demonstrated tremendous leadership as acting provost over the last year, navigating some of Marquette’s more difficult issues with a calm professionalism and an eye toward what is best for our university,” University President Michael Lovell said in the news release.
Ah Yun’s hire comes amid a “cost management review process” that consisted of laying off 24 employees and leaving 49 vacancies open. This is in response to a potential decline in college-age students in coming years.
The release said that, during his time as provost, Ah Yun invested in the Race and Ethnic Studies program cluster hire, pushed for diversity programming, helped create task forces to better the experience of faculty and graduate students and collaborated with members of the University Academic Senate on university policies and procedures.
Lovell said Ah Yun understands the university’s direction with its strategic plan, Beyond Boundaries, which lays out capital projects and other campus ventures.
“I’m delighted to continue our work together in the coming years,” Lovell said.
Ah Yun became acting provost following the Oct. 31, 2018, departure of previous provost Dan Myers. Ah Yun previously served as the dean of Marquette’s College of Communication beginning in 2016. Sarah Feldner, who currently serves as the acting dean for the College of Communication, will remain in her position. The news release said a search for the next permanent dean will be decided in future weeks.
Marquette University Student Government replied to the decision in a statement.
Brittany Pladek, assistant professor of English, said she felt it was hard to react to Ah Yun’s appointment when she does not know anything about the other candidates.
“The position of Provost is deeply important; surely Marquette’s wider faculty should at least get a chance to see the final candidates and offer feedback to the search committee and the President?” Pladek said in an email. “Why such a lack of transparency?”
University spokesperson Chris Stolarski said universities across the country have moved away from open searches as they hinder the ability for an institution to attract the best candidates. He said that many candidates may not even consider open searches as they do not want their current institutions to know they are looking elsewhere.
“Marquette moved away from open searches several years ago so that we can draw the most competitive pool of candidates for any top leadership position, including president, provost and deans,” Stolarski said in an email.
Pladek said she hopes Ah Yun makes it a top priority to listen and respond to faculty concerns. She said many faculty feel they do not have a voice on campus.
Jonathon Jimenez, a junior in the College of Education, said he was surprised to see Ah Yun selected as provost.
“While I believe Provost Ah Yun has the best in mind for Marquette, the actions and policies that have been implemented by him have been problematic,” Jimenez said in an email.
Jimenez said what the news release said of transparency and shared governance does not align with actions taken against the College of Education.
The College of Education faces a potential merge following a deficit of $1 million that the college has incurred over the last five years.
“There were talks about ‘big changes’ coming to our College, but nothing was ever communicated to us,” Jimenez said in an email. “We also didn’t know how these ‘big changes’ would impact us as students. Only after we spoke up was a committee then established to formally evaluate our status as a College.”
Jimenez said this process is backwards and he feels like the university should have taken initial actions differently.
“This is an administration that we should be able to take pride in as students, but their actions feel like a slap in the face,” Jimenez said in an email. “Due to issues like this, I’ve lost trust in Provost Ah Yun. I’m disheartened by his appointment, but I hope he does good work for Marquette with this new opportunity he’s been given.”
“Marquette is above all things a university (not a business, not a brand),” Pladek said. “Its students and faculty are its heart. I hope the current upper administration remembers that as it proceeds with its plans.”
Mark Williams, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, said he didn’t know who Ah Yun is or what a provost does. Other students, including Damaris Zita, a sophomore in the College of Communication, and Josh Feryance, a first-year student in the College of Engineering, echoed the sentiment.
Isabel Dunning, a first-year student in the College of Health Sciences, said she is glad Ah Yun is a person of color.
“If we are trying to diversify the school, we should diversify the board,” Dunning said.
Ah Yun was a first-generation college student who received his bachelor’s degree at California State University in communication studies. He then earned a master’s degree in communication studies from Kansas State University and a doctoral degree in communication from Michigan State University.
Before being the dean of the College of Communication, Ah Yun was associate dean of the College of Arts and Letters at California State University-Sacramento. During his 20-year tenure there, he served as chair of the Department of Communication Studies, a professor of communication studies and the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. He co-chaired a California State University-Sacramento committee that planned campus events about identity, privilege and discrimination.
“Diversity isn’t a goal to be achieved or a box to be checked — it’s an evolving pursuit to make Marquette more reflective of the world around us,” Ah Yun said in the release.
He published work in a variety of communication and teaching journals, earning research grants from the California Criminal Justice Cabinet, California Department of Transportation, Center for Disease Control and the Wisconsin Department of Public Health, among others.
The provost search committee released an Opportunity and Challenge Profile that outlined characteristics that people were hoping to find in the new provost. The profile searched for people who demonstrated “leadership in positions of increasing responsibilities at institutions of higher education” and “commitment to the creation and development of a diverse and inclusive workplace.”
Other qualities included a strong work ethic, a sense of humor and knowledge and experience working with varied student populations, according to the Opportunity and Challenge Profile.
Professor of counselor education and counseling psychology Lisa Edwards chaired the search committee, which was comprised of 15 representatives from across a variety of colleges and roles on campus.
Included among committee members were Marquette University Student Government President Sara Manjee; Rev. Joe Mueller; the associate director of Hispanic Initiatives Jacki Black; and the executive associate athletics director Danielle Josetti. To recruit candidates, the university used search firm Isaacson Miller.
Former Provost Myers resigned the same week as former Executive Vice President of Operations Dave Lawlor. Myers is now provost for American University in Washington, D.C.
Ah Yun said he aims “to build on the great work happening across campus, work to improve morale across campus and address those areas where we are not fully living up to our mission.”
It is unclear which areas Ah Yun referred to with the latter part of his statement.
This story was written by Natallie St. Onge and Annie Mattea. They can be found at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.