UNO Meets First Candidate for Provost -- James E. Payne

A search for a new provost at the University of New Orleans officially heated up today when the first of four finalists spoke at an open forum interview with faculty and staff.

The provost of a university is the president’s right hand, serving as the university’s chief academic officer and acting on behalf of the university in the president’s absence. The provost should actively work to increase the university’s economic, social and cultural engagement, impact and outreach opportunities.

UNO President Peter J. Fos has also said that at UNO, the new provost will work to strengthen partnerships in the greater New Orleans area, as well as in the state, national, and global arenas to advance academic and university success.

James E. Payne greeted the UNO community on Wednesday at a lunchtime open forum in Kirschman Hall. Payne recently served as regional vice chancellor for academic affairs and research at the University of South Florida, Lakeland, also known as Florida Polytechnic University. He now serves as a finance professor and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Economics and Finance at USF.

“I get excited about developing programs and turning situations around,” said Payne, who said that the University’s post-Katrina recovery in a changing world of higher education calls for creativity, open lines of communication and cutting-edge responses. “The same old funding models and financial approaches that you’ve been using for 50 to 60 years is not going to work.”

An economist, Payne spoke on a variety of issues, calling New Orleans “a great area of opportunity” for new student recruiting and retention. He called for better marketing and strategic planning, openness and transparency of the budget planning process and a flow of information from academic affairs to faculty on budget information so that they may better participate in the planning process.

Every faculty member should know going into the fiscal year what their departmental operating budgets will look like, he said, referring to “sheer governance and responsibility.” They should also know their roles in attaining funding and moving the department forward.

Payne said he sees the provost’s role during a budget process as one of advocating on behalf of academics, developing helpful fundraising programs for the colleges, and advancing corporate partnerships.

Drawing on past experience and calling up benchmark examples, Payne addressed issues ranging from performance-based incentives and academic involvement in university development efforts to the merits and drawbacks of non-tenured faculty plans (for the record, he supports tenure). He spoke about his career experiences, including recent work helping a liberal arts-heavy college transitioning to a urban research university.

Payne spent the day on campus and met with a variety of University officials, ending his day meeting with President Fos.

To learn more about Payne, visit the website that UNO has set up regarding candidates and UNO’s search for a new provost. Those of you who attended the lunchtime forum are invited to provide feedback by sending an e-mail message to a member of the search committee.