UNO Meets Second of Four Finalists for Provost -- Christopher K. McCord

A search for the University of New Orleans’ next provost and vice president of academic affairs ramped up further today as the second of four finalist candidates interviewed on campus.

Open forum interviews with the four candidates are being held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, Oct. 3-5, and Wednesday, Oct. 17, in Kirschman Hall, Room 122. The provost and vice president of academic affairs is considered a university president’s right hand and sets the vision and implementation plans for academic affairs.

Christopher K. McCord has served since 2007 as dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences at Northern Illinois University, where he oversees about half of the university’s research and instructional effort, he said. Trained as a mathematician, McCord spoke at a lunchtime open forum interview about his sense of where urban research institutions similar to UNO are today and “the shared challenges that all of us in that environment face.”

He is still learning about UNO and its particular realities, McCord said, so he spoke in generalities about issues facing higher education, particularly public higher education.

“I used to talk about how it was changing. That’s now the wrong thing to say. It has changed,” said McCord, who emphasized that while the landscape for public higher education has changed drastically since he began his higher education career in 1986, some fundamental values have remained.

“No matter how things have changed we still believe in the transformative ability of education for the individual,” he said, listing several key fundamentals. “We still believe in the enormous societal value of the highly educated individual.”

American society has increasingly looked at the economic value of higher education, he said. That may be inescapable as the rate of change is ever increasing and impacting how universities deliver instruction to for-profit markets.

“If we are going to thrive in that changed environment we’re going to have be able to leverage our strengths and make the case for why we really matter,” McCord said. “There’s a lot of things, if you will, at the tactical level about recruiting process. Beyond that, behind that, above that has to sit a rationale: What is fundamentally the reason why a student would come here.”

A university has to position itself, then all departments from enrollment management to marketing and communications will have to carry that message out, he said. Students have to have a student-faculty experience that resonates and feel as though they are part of a university community that has value.

McCord addressed faculty and staff questions on topics ranging from his position on faculty tenure and so-called “buy-down programs” to succession planning, responsibility management, online learning, recruiting and retention of key researchers – and his management style and how it manifests.

“We’re in an environment where you have to run as fast as you can just to stay in place. There is a constant effort to advance, there is a constant effort to adapt to change,” McCord said. “The kind of institution that you are part of is the kind of institution that I have always been part of, that I always want to be part of.”

For more information on the search for UNO’s next provost or four finalist candidates selected by a special search committee.