February 7, 2013

UNO's New Provost Takes a
Look Forward

Dr. PayneJames Payne, Provost and VP of Academic Affairs

Four weeks into his new position as provost at the University of New Orleans, James Payne said that he is starting to feel settled. The new provost hit the ground running with the start of the new year, immediately setting up meetings with top administrators, faculty and staff and working with the University president to align the University's new strategic plan.

"What I want people to think about is: How can we look forward and do things on our own without being dependent on the state," the new provost said. "What I'm hoping for right off the bat is better communication about the direction (of the University.)"

As provost and vice president for academic affairs, Payne will serve as top academic administrator under UNO President Peter J. Fos. A search committee selected from a pool of 75 applicants and four finalists "because of his qualities as a collaborative, collegial, energetic and entrepreneurial academic leader and his genuine commitment to meeting the challenges that UNO faces," said Sharon Mader, chair of the search committee and dean of library services.

Payne, an economist by training, has openly recognized high quality among UNO faculty, as well as contributing factors to past struggles for the University, including hurricanes and state budget cuts. Going forward, he plans to assess how the University can make operations more efficient, he said.

The new provost's priorities include: transparency, accountability, careful resource allocation and clear communication of budget and resource decisions. He reports that he tends to be very data-driven when making decisions about budgets and resource allocation. Through strategic planning and an open budget communication process, he said, the University will move forward.

"We're trying to reposition UNO," the provost said. "I want departments and the faculty and staff to get rejuvenated, look forward and not focus their attention on the past...I really want the academic programs in the departments to really think about their programs in terms of progress―what's going to be something distinctive that is going to meet community needs and bring distinction and recognition to the university."

Payne has noted that UNO has a strong reputation in the greater New Orleans community and hopes to see the University to play an even greater role in the New Orleans community and beyond. Possibilities for doing include: establishing for-credit and dual credit programs, serving workforce needs and creating stronger opportunities for departments to interact with the community. Payne also has his sights set on a more global UNO, he said, and is thinking about programs that can be developed in different venues overseas.

He's taking his time proposing and making changes, the provost said, and working hard to develop trusting relationships with faculty, staff and students. The new provost is also planning monthly open forums, where students, faculty, staff and administrators will hear what's on his mind, can ask questions and will get answers.