Provost announces resignation for June

Bonnie Higginson has announced her resignation after three years as Murray State’s provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. || File photo

Bonnie Higginson has announced her resignation after three years as Murray State’s provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. || File photo

Bonnie Higginson, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, has announced her resignation at the end of her term in June 2013.

Under her original contract from two years ago, Higginson was to serve three years, with an optional fourth. She has decided she will end the contract at the end of the three years in order to return to the classroom, where she said her heart is.

Higginson said she has spoken with President Randy Dunn and they discussed a fourth year, but her final decision was to bow out of the position before beginning that year.

A national search committee will be selected or hired within the next few weeks, in order to seek a candidate to fill the position Higginson will vacate. While a national search will be conducted, the opportunity within that search is present for an in-house selection.

President Randy Dunn said when he found out about Higginson’s resignation, he informed the Board of Regents.

“My anticipation is the University will do a national search,” he said. “The search will include external and internal candidates and I imagine it would take a good part of the year to do the search properly.”

Dunn said he did not know if a search firm would be hired for the process, as hiring a firm is costly. He said he wanted to talk to the constituency Regents and discuss the pros and cons of each possible approach.

“The University needs to have the new provost in position by July 1 of 2013,” he said. “I think a position at this level would require the same kind of search that would be needed for a president.”

He said a wide variety of groups on and off campus would be needed to look at the two to three final candidates for the position. He said it may require a two day set of presentations in front of many groups, to help in the decision making process.

Dunn said there were advantages to having a firm, but it had its setbacks as well.

“The advantages of having a firm is that they generally work at the front end of the search,” he said. “Which means they may know who is ready, nationwide, to step into the role.”

He said another pro was that the firm would do the initial collection and review of all the applicant credentials, which can be a timely process.

Dunn said even if a firm were hired to conduct the search, there would still be a campus based search committee, which would narrow the field of qualified candidates to determine which are most applicable. He said the final candidates would go before him and the board for consideration.

The person chosen to fill the role of provost and vice president of Academic Affairs will be someone with the appropriate credentials, including external and internal candidates.

Jay Morgan, associate provost, an internal candidate has announced intentions to apply for the provost position, which will open in July.

Morgan said in the last few days, he has been pleased that several respected individuals on campus have encouraged him to apply.

“Given their encouragement and my interest in the position,” he said. “And barring any unforeseen obstacles, I do plan to apply.”

He said as a possible internal candidate, he feels support from those at the University.

“I feel like most people on campus know me, my leadership style and effectiveness, and also have a good feel of what type of job I would do based on my previous roles of supporting the faculty,” he said. “I have had a long-running commitment to academics and the faculty body at Murray State, and not a flash and dash commitment.”

Morgan said he thinks he has a good track record of working with the constituency groups on campus, the deans, chairs, faculty and others and believes he could provide some visionary advancement for academic affairs.

Renae Duncan, associate provost, said she was not going to apply for the position, as she did not feel she would be the right person for the job.

“The position of provost is vital at any university,” she said. “That person is responsible for everything that falls under academics within the University. The search committee will look for the one best person suitable for the position.”

Duncan said she could only describe hearing the news of Higginon’s resignation as sad. She credited Higginson with much of the University’s academic strength.

“It is because of Higginson the colleges and schools at this University have become stronger,” she said. “Higginson has had a large hand in the restructuring and strengthening of the academics of this campus.”

Duncan said Higginson had expressed her desire to return to teaching at the University.

Higginson said she has the option to return in a half-time teaching position in the College of Education, and said she plans on doing so.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the (provost) position,” she said. “In a way, I feel like I’m just getting started. What it boils down to are the students. Like I said, I’ve enjoyed the position, but I miss the day-to-day contact I had with the students in my first 27 years here at Murray State. I want to teach again before I really retire.”

Higginson said the thoughts of resigning at the end of her three years began in the fall of 2011. She said she started thinking about the big picture.

“I thought about my life and what I’ve done,” she said. “I thought about time and how much anyone really has, I don’t want to regret working full time for so long. This job has been amazing, but it is very time consuming.”

She said her husband, Cliff, would not take a stand on whether she should complete three or four years. In the end, she decided she wanted more free time to spend with him and the students she loves teaching.

Higginson has a few regrets leaving the position, but she said one of the bigger ones was leaving the administrators who have become her friends. She said she would miss the close connection the position brings with the other University vice presidents, deans of the colleges and with Dunn.

At the end of her term, Higginson will have been at Murray State for 33 years. She began her career at the University in 1979, and spent time as a professor, chair of the department of elementary and secondary education, White College Head and associate provost.

She held the associate provost position for three years before applying for the combined position of provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. Before starting her career at Murray State, Higginson received her undergraduate and graduate degrees here, receiving her doctorate from the University of Georgia.

The positions of provost and vice president of Academic Affairs coordinates the academic side of the University.

Jack Rose, Faculty Regent and professor, said he and Higginson had worked together for a long time and, in his opinion, she has and is doing an excellent job at her administrative post.

“Higginson has a disposition and a desire to make sure the faculty are properly embodied,” he said. “Her heart and soul is at Murray State and I think she has lead at a time when there have been many problems, especially with a lack of funding.”

Story by Chris Wilcox, News Editor.