After two search committees, VCU names provost

Austin Walker
Staff Writer

Gail Hackett, Ph.D., will begin her position as provost on March 1 of this year. She formerly served as provost at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Photo courtesy of university of missouri-Kansas City

This month, President Michael Rao announced the conclusion of VCU’s year-long provost search with the appointment of Gail Hackett, Ph.D.

Hackett succeeds Beverly Warren, VCU’s former provost who announced last January that she would assume the position of President at Kent State University at the conclusion of the 2014 spring semester.

Hackett, who will begin her new position March 1, previously served as provost at the University of Missouri-Kansas City since early 2008. While there, she helped develop and implement UMKC’s first strategic plan to replace an ineffective budget model.

“It’s been a good run,” Hackett said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with the people (at UMKC) and we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of very important things, especially for students.”

VCU administration hopes that Hackett’s experience and expertise will also help improve the “Quest for Distinction” — the university’s strategic plan to improve VCU’s standing as a premier urban research institution.

“Gail’s going to provide a new perspective and has served a very productive and recognized research university and she’ll be able to bring that perspective to push the Quest For Distinction forward in a very aggressive way,” said John Wiencek, senior vice provost for administration and strategic initiatives, who has served as interim provost since last May.

Wiencek has similarly worked with leaders at VCU in laying the groundwork for a new budget model, overseen the centralization of advising, solidified the university’s accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and reprioritized the school’s strategic plan.

“I am so pleased that the president gave me the opportunity,” Wiencek said. “I’ve learned a lot from the experience and I think I’ve contributed and helped to keep the university moving forward.”

Last January, following Warren’s acceptance of the presidency at Kent State, Rao announced to the VCU community that a search committee would launch later that month.

In May, Rao informed the community that “after careful consideration,” none of the three finalists would replace Warren, and a second search led by a new committee would launch shortly.

When Hackett was initially approached about the position during the first search, she said she didn’t feel ready to leave UMKC. When she was approached during the second search, she said she had heightened interest, however.

“The more I heard about VCU and what was going on here the more impressed I was,” Hackett said.

Before implementing any changes at VCU, Hackett emphasized that she intends to develop a complete understanding of how the university is run.

This is partially because, despite the many similarities between UMKC and VCU, Hackett said there is a major difference in their levels of development.

“VCU is further along in some areas,” Hackett said. “I won’t say better, but I will say further along.”

Another critical difference is the existence of VCU’s medical program, which allows the health sciences to receive more funding for research and additional resources.

Hackett said she’s excited to work with the Medical Center and promote interdisciplinary collaboration between the Monroe Park and Medical campuses.

“You judge the excellence of the student body by who you include and how well they do in the institution and how well they do when they graduate,” Hackett said, adding that she finds VCU’s push for excellence through inclusion is one of the most interesting and commendable aspect of the university.

Hackett said this system of schooling is progressive, and that she hopes to see the push for inclusion in more schools as time progresses.

“Although I would’ve loved to serve in the role for a longer period of time, I’m really looking forward to working with Gail,” Wiencek said. “(Hackett) is a fabulous thing for the university.”

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