Experiences, Reflections and Advice From a Former "Number Two" on Campus

February 2019
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  • Publisher
    Stylus Publishing
  • Published
    7th February 2019
  • ISBN 9781579229702
  • Language English
  • Pages 402 pp.
  • Size 5.5" x 8.25"
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October 2013
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  • Publisher
    Stylus Publishing
  • Published
    1st October 2013
  • ISBN 9781579229719
  • Language English
  • Pages 402 pp.
  • Size 5.5" x 8.25"

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October 2013
More details
  • Publisher
    Stylus Publishing
  • Published
    1st October 2013
  • ISBN 9781579229726
  • Language English
  • Pages 402 pp.
  • Size 5.5" x 8.25"

What is a Provost—and what does a Provost do?

Don’t look for the answers on the bookshelf. There is scant literature devoted to the Provost-ship – for which the author advances a number of hypotheses – so, until this informal and autobiographical account, there has been little for aspirants or new appointees to draw on for guidance or to provide a feel for what the role entails.

Larry Nielsen offers a highly personal account of his tenure as Provost of North Carolina State University, from his unexpected invitation by the Chancellor to act as interim Provost, to the events that forced his resignation four years later, and brought him unwanted notoriety.

In a fast-paced, self-deprecating style he invites the reader to share the activities that crowded his schedule, the symbolic character of the role, its opportunities to shape policy, and its limitations, as well as the joy and satisfaction he derived from making a difference in people’s lives and the institution. We see him in action, and get a sense of the role, as he addresses problems large and small. He shares insights on the governance of a large public institution, on how monies are allocated, and funds made available for strategic initiatives. By the end of the book, we gain an understanding of the myriad roles of the “number two” position of the institution, responsible for the direction and functioning of all its academic and curricular affairs, that Larry Nielsen characterized for himself as “the University's stay-at-home Dad.”

He concludes the book with a look back at the Provost’s job from his renewed perspective as a faculty member, further demonstrating the truth of his assertion that “where you stand depends on where you sit.”

This is an entertaining and insightful read for anyone who wants to get a glimpse of how a large university functions, as seen through the eyes of an ultimate “insider.” For those interested in taking on the highest administrative positions in higher education it offers a window into that world, including the perils to which incumbents can be exposed when their actions become front-page news.

"When Provost arrived in the mail for my review, I first noticed its bulk. Opening the book to the table of contents, I found 65 chapters in 12 parts for a total of 402 pages. To my surprise and pleasure, Nielsen is an engaging and superb writer. More valuable than any of the conferences I have attended, I felt I had found a mentor. Reading this book was like visiting with Larry Nielsen over a cup of coffee, laughing about shared experiences as provost, and gleaning wisdom from a smart and successful former 'Number Two'.”

"In this extraordinary reflection on the role of and experience in serving as Provost at a major public research university, Larry Nielsen thoughtfully, and with honesty, wit, and clarity, describes the wonder of the position and helps us all navigate the pitfalls and savor the moments of joy and progress.

Nielsen’s years on the faculty and in positions of Department Head, Director, Dean, and Provost provide him a depth of knowledge and special insights about the inner workings of the academy across several institutions. His uncanny capacity for reflection upon and synthesis of those experiences, including the unfortunate circumstances that led to his resignation, and translation of them into meaningful analysis and prose lend credence to his advice and make this a book worth reading – not only for aspiring Provosts, but also for faculty, Deans, and Presidents.

Read this book and learn about the inner workings of our universities, the roles and responsibilities of the Provost position, the subtle dimensions of effective leadership, and, equally as interesting, the experiences and reflections of an individual who loves the academy."

D.H. DeHayes, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, The University of Rhode Island

Foreword – D. H. DeHayes

Part One: The Accidental Provost
1. I Loved My Job
2. It Was Destiny
3. Who Could Love Being an Administrator?
4. From Sublime to Ridiculous
5. Realizing Possibilities

Part Two: Mr. Provost
6. What Is a Provost, Anyhow?
7. Being Number Two
8. The Provost Is Not a Dean
9. The Provost’s Perfect Day
10. The University’s Stay-at-Home Parent
11. Just a Little Famous
Lessons About Being Mr. Provost

Part Three: Money Is Way Ahead of Whatever Is in Second Place
12. A Textbook Example
13. The Provost’s Best Friend
14. We Have More Money Than We Think We Do
15. We Have All the Money We Need
16. The Strategic Doorstop
17. The Provost Ain’t Got No Alumni
Lessons About Money

Part Four: Academics “R” Us
18. Academics “R” Us—or “R” It?
19. Strategy “R” Us, Too
20. Athletes Are Students, Too
21. Yin, Yang, and You
22. Speaking of Students
23. In the Service of Academics
24. Graduation Day
Lessons About Academics

Part Five: Facilities and Other Evils
25. Space, the Final Frontier
26. Space Assignments Don’t Die, They Just Fossilize
27. New Space Is Just on Its Way to Becoming Old Space
28. The Worst Two-Word Phrase in the University Vocabulary
29. Private Business Wouldn’t Do It This Way
30. Snow Days
31. How the Provost Froze Christmas
Lessons About Facilities and Other Evils

Part Six: Faculty
32. Administrators Love Faculty, Really
33. Faculty Are the Capital of the University
34. Where Does Faculty Leave off and Provost begin?
35. Faculty Bark; the Provost Bites
36. To Tenure or Not to Tenure
37. There’s No Business Like the Know Business
Lessons About Faculty

Part Seven: People Matter Most
38. Populus Plurimus Maximus Es
39. Showing Up Is 95% of Life
40. Transparency Is Alive, but Privacy Is Dead
41. Not Everyone Is Like Me
42. Leave Your Phone at the Door
43. In the Presence of Greatness
Lessons About People Mattering Most

Part Eight: Experience Is a Great Teacher
44. First Reports From the Front
45. What Is a Department Head, Anyway?
46. Being a Dean Helps
47. It’s a Clingy Environment
48. Dancing With a Gorilla
49. The Gorilla That Got Me
50. What I Learned From the Dancing Gorilla
Lessons From Experience

Part Nine: Who Owns the University?
51. No One Could Do a Better Job Than You
52. A Messy Bottom Line
53. The Faculty’s Property Interest
54. The Provost’s Job
Lessons About Who Owns the University

Part Ten: Being the Ex
55. Starting Over
56. The Half-Life of an Ex-Provost
57. We Don’t Know Anything—and We Don’t Really Care
58. Learning to Love Again
Lessons About Being the Ex-Provost

Part Eleven: The Literature of the Provost
59. What Is a Provost?
60. Who Gets to Be a Provost?
61. How Do Provosts Spend Their Time?
62. Is There Life After Being Provost?
Lessons From the Literature

Part Twelve: So You Want to Be a Provost
63. A Citizen of the University
64. A Student of the University
65. One of the Guys


Larry A. Nielsen

Larry A. Nielsen is Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University.

leadership; governance; administration; executive leadership; organizational leadership; educational leadership; provost; career development