Featured image: Provost Jeff Van Duzer will be retiring per request of President Dan Martin. Jenna Rasmussen | The Falcon
Editor’s note: The university conducted prepublication review of this story. For more details see letter to the reader by Editor-in-Chief on pg, 8
Senior leadership will soon be experiencing what President Daniel Martin described in a Feb. 28 email to faculty as a time of “transition and change,” as Jeff Van Duzer is stepping down as provost at Martin’s request at the end of this academic year.
The transition will occur on July 1. At that time, Dr. Bruce Congdon — current dean of the Division of STEM and Social Sciences — will step in for what is projected to be approximately one year as interim provost while a new, long-term provost is selected by a 17-member committee.
In an interview, Van Duzer expressed respect for the president and for the university as a whole, and understanding that change can be beneficial to an institution. He also described the change as “sudden,” and said that he is still unsure of the details of his next move.
“Well I’ve spent a very significant portion of [my] life with pretty defined school, and jobs, and job requirements, and then all of a sudden there are no requirements,” Van Duzer said, “So I joked with my wife, because when I wake up on July 1st I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”
The provost handles all facets of the university that affect student experience, including but not limited to academic programs, residence life, athletics, enrollment, ministries, career services, and study abroad. The provost works closely with the president’s office. Van Duzer has held the position for six years and is tenured. Prior to his time as provost, he served as the dean of the school of Business, Government, and Economics.
Martin announced the change in the aforementioned Feb. 28 email to faculty, but has not yet made a public statement regarding the transition.
“Per my request, Jeff Van Duzer will step down from his role as Provost at the conclusion of this academic year,” wrote Martin. “I have made this request not out of any lack of appreciation for all that Jeff has done, and is doing, but because I have come to believe that a change in leadership style will be helpful as SPU moves into its future.”
Martin detailed Van Duzer’s achievements and stated that he “is a man of great integrity with a desire to serve and share the love of Christ.”
In an interview on Friday, April 5, Martin expressed enthusiasm for the future of the university, which he feels will benefit from the presence of a fresh voice as provost.
“So as we think about the future and all that’s before us, and when we think about senior leadership team and working administration and staff, I am hopeful for the opportunities that are before us,” Martin said, “and believe this opportunity to recruit a provost into this community, with the strength that we have … can enhance and look to the future in new ways.”
Martin explained that transitions in leadership are completely aligned with the nature of universities and good for the future of the school as a whole.
“There’s ebbs and flows in university leadership in organizations; we’ve been around since 1891, we certainly haven’t had the same senior leadership team in that time, and I’m the 10th president,” Martin said.
He continued, recognizing that, just as he has decided that the provost role is in need of a new voice,
“There will come a point when the university will need a different voice in my role, a different leader with it, a different perspective, because the landscape of higher education, or the culture, or the framework in which we operate has changed.”
In an interview, Van Duzer discussed Martin’s statement regarding change being helpful to the university going forward.
“I think that, frequently, change is good for any institution, and that it may well be that this was a particularly good season at which to make a change for the sake of the institution.”
On July 1, Congdon will be stepping into the role of interim provost as the university searches for someone to take the position permanently.
Congdon is in his 34th year at SPU and had been planning to retire at the end of this academic year until he was offered the interim position.
“[Congdon] has all the gifts and graces and capacity to excel and achieve in this role, and enable us to continue to move forward without pushing pause on any initiatives and efforts that are ongoing,” said Martin. “He’ll be able to move right in and continue to lead us forward in that regard.”
Congdon has served as SPU’s interim provost in the past, just before Martin came to SPU in 2012 and for a short while thereafter, totalling about a year in the position altogether.
When asked to fill the role again this year, Congdon said he promptly agreed.
“I feel deeply connected to SPU, and deeply committed to what SPU is trying to accomplish,” Congdon said in an interview. “I was looking forward to retiring, honestly, but when this situation arose and Dr. Martin asked me to consider taking on this role, I felt honored and I felt compelled by my loyalty to this place and my gratitude for what SPU is and does.”
Van Duzer praised Congdon’s appointment, saying, “I have nothing but the greatest respect for him and I’m pleased that he is willing, in a sense coming out of retirement for a year, to step into this role and then carry it forward.”
According to Congdon — and mentioned in Martin’s interview and emails as well — a committee has already been formed to search for the incoming provost, and matters regarding this selection are planned to be settled sometime within the year Congdon serves as interim.
“There is a committee that has been comprised, and that committee is working on refining a job description and an announcement that will go out, and we’ve hired a search firm,” said Congdon.
Martin elaborated in his interview that the firm selected to assist with the process will be Isaacson, Miller; a national search firm. The committee plans to work with the firm and a search consultant to appoint the best possible applicant for the position. SPU’s committee is comprised of faculty, staff, and ASSP president Nathan Samayo, as well as Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Dr. Sandra Mayo and Dean Doug Strong as co-chairs.
“We would be looking for an individual to come in and enhance the curriculum and the co-curricular aspects to engage the student,” Martin said regarding the search for the new provost, “but then think about those opportunities that we have in terms of program development that would provide perhaps new opportunity and new areas of study for our students, that would enhance our ability to recruit and retain students as a primary aspect.”