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Professor Anthony C. Masi had been serving as Interim Provost since March 2005, but in December he was confirmed in the position with a five-year (renewable) mandate as McGill's Provost. Now, he is working hard to reposition the Office of the Provost to help the university achieve its strategic objectives.
Your office has seen some shifting in relation to others in the university. How has this been reflected in your organization?
My objective is simple: make sure our resources are lined up with our priorities. The Provost is the university's "chief academic officer," but the position is also responsible for strategic planning. Starting with the fiscal year 2006-2007, the allocation of budgets and other resources annually for the university as a whole becomes the Provost's job, so the budget office will report jointly to me and to the VP (Administration and Finance). Because of the unique constraints on hiring in the university, the Provost must also have a hand in Human Resources decisions, so there again a joint reporting structure is being implemented. And finally, there are ancillary and broader university services, including facilities development, that will now report to the Provost in order to ensure that space demands are consonant with our academic priorities.
The internal reorganization of the Office of the Provost is also of concern and is underway. There are now three instead of five deputy and associate provosts. I still have a search outstanding for a new Chief Information Officer and I will add the title Associate Provost (Graduate Education) to the Dean of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies.
How is this organizational efficiency connected to the image of the university?
Today, universities must deal with external realities that were not around a decade ago - such as responding quickly to CFI and CRC initiatives, dealing with the complex relationship between the university and the health care system, and developing new sources of revenue to support our academic priorities. We also need to continue to attract qualified candidates from around the world, nurture them in the early stages of their career, hold on to them through their most productive years, and offer them opportunities to stay connected after retiring from the university.
Our mission is to be among the world's best publicly funded research-intensive student-centred universities. Three years ago we began benchmarking against the competition and monitoring internal performance against key indicators. How do we truly enrich the students we attract here? How do we make sure professors work in an environment that allows them to do their research and then pass that knowledge on to students? Beyond that, how can we ensure that in the long run we are positioned to take advantage of opportunities as they arise?
Will this approach translate into McGill bagging Nobel winners the way UBC did when it lured physicist Carl Wieman from Colorado?
No. I'm certainly happy that a Canadian university has been able to find the resources to do what UBC did but I would rather see McGill as an incubator for people doing the kind of research that deserves a Nobel Prize. And to build that kind of environment, we have to think creatively about how to maximize every dollar we invest in the university. Accountability is an important part of being an administrator in a publicly funded university. And we want to pass that sensibility down as many layers as possible, so that everyone who makes a decision is willing to be held accountable for it. The Provost is the chief academic officer of the university: everything academic has to come through this office at one point or another. But we don't want to be a bottleneck, we want to facilitate, which means rethinking the way we've organized ourselves up to now.
My father worked in factories and helped me to find my first job when I was 15, working in a sheet metal factory in the New York City area, where I worked on an assembly line that made everything from pool filters to hot water heaters to oil barrels. You had to make sure that the seams were well sealed and aligned, or it would leak - probably a good lesson in there for a Provost. I worked in factories every summer, up to the time I attended graduate school.