USF Welcomes New Provost Dr. Jennifer Turpin

Last week, Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J. announced that Dr. Jennifer E. Turpin has been chosen to be the next provost, succeeding James L. Wiser’s 12-year term as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. An audience consisting of mostly faculty and staff welcomed Dr. Turpin to a standing ovation in McLaren Wednesday morning. “I’m honored and I’m very humbled to be offered the provost position, given this huge opportunity and huge responsibility,” Dr. Turpin said. She has been USF’s dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since 2003.

Dr. Jennifer Turpin, second from left, accepted the new title of provost last Wednesday. The announcment was met with a standing ovation. Photo by Alexander Crook/Foghorn

After a community-wide search that began in early September, President Privett gave his gratitude to all members of the provost search committee. The committee did “a terrific job at developing a very strong pool of candidates and overseeing a process that was inclusive, participatory, thorough and gave each segment of the university community an opportunity to hear the candidates and be heard by the committee,” he said.

Dr. Turpin was chosen in mid-February out of a pool of three candidates. According to a USFconnect message by Tim Iglesias, Dr. Devorah Lieberman, the fourth candidate, had resigned from the search “to take another direction in her career.” In the email, Iglesias said that “this is a possibility with any search, which is one reason we decided to invite four candidates for the on-campus interviews.”

Privett made his final decision within five days after Iglesias’ email. “The strength of the finalist pool and the thoroughness of the search process highlighted for me how fortunate we are to have Jennifer Turpin as our next provost,” he said.

Dr. Turpin gave her appreciations to Privett, the search committee, and all faculty and staff who took part during her interview process. “I want to thank Provost Jim Wiser for hiring me as dean and for his guidance and for helping to learn and grow into this position,” she said. “I had the pleasure of working with an amazing team in the dean’s office and I’ll always treasure your love and support.”

During Dr. Turpin’s speech, she brought to attention the economic challenges USF faces. “In a bad economy we have to find a way to deliver to our students an education that they can afford. We must do this while enhancing our academic excellence and while delivering on our Jesuit mission,” she said. Dr. Turpin sent a message of unity to the audience, that the community together can overcome the “challenges facing the period of transformation for American higher education and for USF in particular.” With USF’s Jesuit mission and the contributions of faculty and staff, Dr. Turpin said USF can become a great university.

Privett also announced that James L. Wiser will be given an honorary degree at USF’s commencement ceremonies this year. Upon hearing of this news, audience members gave a standing ovation. Before joining USF as provost in 1998, Wiser served as provost to Loyola University in Chicago for nine years.  “All in all Jim has given 21 years of faithful, productive service and consistent leadership to Jesuit education,” Father Privett said. “The effects of his leadership, I can assure you, are felt beyond the hilltop.” Wiser will go on sabbatical the coming year and return to teach in Politics Department in 2011.

Privett also made a public response to the Foghorn’s “Street Talk,” concerning the question, “What does the Provost do?” Audience members expressed laughter as Privett read aloud the student responses published in the Feb. 4 issue.  “One student replied, ‘I have no idea. I’m guessing something to do with the church’—wrong!”

Privett set the record straight. “Let me oversimplify this,” he said. The provost directly affects students in and outside of the classroom. The provost works in conjunction with the five deans and two vice provosts to ensure “high quality teaching” and “scholarly work” throughout the graduate and undergraduate programs in all five schools, “as well as the vice president for university life and the director of university ministry. Hence, overall this is a huge responsibility,” he said.

Junior Jennie Walker said that when students were sent emails of the provost search updates, the role of the provost should have been defined. “A lot of people didn’t know what a provost was,” she said. According to Walker, if students were informed, student participation in the interview process would have been more successful. Otherwise, Walker said Dr. Turpin becoming the new provost is “a good transition for her.”

In ending her 10 years as Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Turpin will bring “a long-standing commission to the Jesuit Catholic tradition of humanizing education,” Father Privett said. “I want to thank Jenny for agreeing to step into this position. To the college of Arts and Sciences — sorry for your loss.”

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