Chief Academic Officers and The Future Leadership of American Higher Education

February 2009
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Chief academic officers (CAOs), often referred to as provosts, are responsible for the teaching, research and service functions at colleges and universities. CAOs are second-in-command on most campuses reporting directly to the president or chancellor. With funding provided by the TIAA-CREF Institute, the American Council on Education (ACE) surveyed CAOs in 2008 to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of this position and the individuals holding these positions. More specifically, the study examined demographics of CAOs, the professional paths followed to the CAO position, chief responsibilities and challenges of the CAO, and future career plans, including whether CAOs will pursue a president’s position. This report complements the key findings and insights presented in the ACE report The CAO Census: A National Profile of Chief Academic Officers (Eckel, et al., 2009) with the reflections and observations from four current CAOs—Herman A. Berliner, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Hofstra University; Joan F. Lorden, Provost and Vice Chancellor, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Risa Palm, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, The State University of New York; and Michael A. Smyer, Provost, Bucknell University—based on their perspectives and experiences.