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Although by some dictionaries' accounts a provost is the keeper of a prison or the highest official in a cathedral, much of North America uses the word to mean the chief academic officer of a university. Luc Vinet's term as Provost will be renewed for another five years, starting July 15, 2004.
Formerly also known as Vice-Principal (Academic), he'll now be referred to simply as Provost. His duties will be the same, if not even more involved: he oversees academic personnel, teaching, research, student affairs and budgetary allocations.
It's an exciting time for Vinet. He's chiefly responsible for the ambitious new planning effort that will give shape to the McGill community's vision of the future in terms of improving the quality of education programs and research activities, and to use the resources we have in the best way possible. Vinet says, "McGill will be managing its operations a little differently, proceeding with a multi-year budget."
When he joined McGill as VP in 1999, Vinet wanted to see McGill's profile raised within Quebec. "It's critical for McGill to be strong locally, to do great outreach. We're more and more present within the province," he says, due in part to our growing share of Quebec students, and McGill's participation in a number of city and provincial forums. Since he's been here, he's seen McGill improve from doing "miserably" in the first round of Canada Foundation for Innovation grants to capturing 17 percent of the national envelope in round two.
Vinet, who had provost added to his title in 2001, is informally known as the "provost of a thousand hires," due to his initiative behind hiring 100 professors each year over a decade. There are challenges to sustaining this project. "It's not trivial to find the people, and to generate the resources we need. But it is key because almost all we do revolves around the professors." Aside from teaching and research, "every professor is also an entrepreneur, generating enormous activity with an economical element to it.
"We are really building the university of 2020. These people will be in full bloom fifteen years from now, at the peak of their careers."
McGill is roughly halfway through this endeavor, which comes with management challenges. Upcoming tenure reviews will involve cohorts of 100 people at a time, a far cry from reviews in the past that handled maybe 30 professors. As well, there will be that many more people taking sabbaticals at the same time.
Related to the hiring is the need for infrastructure and space. We'll need to sustain the construction boom of the last five years, Vinet says, to house the new profs, and to accommodate the needs of modern research which requires more space and equipment than 30 years ago.
One area the university is looking to expand in is the field of allied health, "Nursing, physiotherapy, communication disorders — the societal needs are huge. Up to now our programs have been too small for McGill to have the impact we should have. We're extremely constrained by space. We're now presenting a request to the government for funds for new buildings for these schools."
As well, Vinet says the next decade will see a new vision for Macdonald Campus. "This is an extraordinary resource that McGill has, but it's really underdeveloped. It has tremendous potential. We need to articulate and expand the academic vision and research possibilities, and also the connection with the business sector. The campus has already started to move in the biotech direction, and the environmental areas.
"The future looks bright and there's a lot to do," Vinet says.