Provost Biddy Martin’s role has finally expanded beyond her means. Last week, Martin appointed David Harris, vice provost for the social sciences, to the new position of Deputy Provost and promoted Robert Buhrman to Vice Provost of Research.
The role of Deputy Provost is essentially an aide to the Provost, but this is a job that has never been filled.
“It’s a new position at Cornell. To understand what’s going on you have to take a step back and look at the President and the Provost,” Harris said.
Martin explained the necessity of the new appointment, mentioning her growing responsibilities.
“The reason for the creation this position is relatively simple. I need more help with the workings of my office so that I can free myself up to work more directly with the deans and also in support of President Skorton’s priorities, including the campaign and international relations,” Provost Martin said.
According to Harris, Martin is taking on a larger role, and Skorton wants her to be more involved with Cornell’s increasing internationalization and the capital campaign.
“She already had more than one person’s job,” Harris said. “She needs someone to help with the priorities and make sure that the work gets done.”
“The job has really two components; one is stepping in for her when she is unavailable, but the more day to day is about taking the lead on some strategic priorities, working with the other vice provosts to make sure those goals get achieved,” Harris said.
Harris is wary of being over confident in his appointment. According to him, the new position will require fine-tuning and some trial and error.
“I am excited and nervous. Its exciting because there’s a lot of things to do and there’s a lot of potential…On the other hand, I’m quite nervous because the position hadn’t existed prior to my appointment…it’s a lot to negotiate — exactly what the parameters are, and how others will react to the new role,” Harris said.
Martin stood by her decision to assign Harris to the role.
“The reason I chose David Harris was because I thought he would be the most effective at the kind of help I need. He’s very talented and I think he will do an outstanding job,” Martin said.
Martin has also replaced Vice Provost of research Robert Richardson with Robert Buhrman, Director of the Center for Nanoscale Systems. Richardson, who pioneered the role under the name Vice Provost of research, will become senior science adviser to Martin and Skorton.
“Before Richardson, we had the office…this office goes back a long time. [It] has several roles, all of which support promoting and enabling research at Cornell,” Buhrman said.
According to Buhrman, Richardson left some large shoes to fill.
“It’s a challenge, and I’m honored to be asked and I’m going to do my best to carry on the tradition of aiding faculty. I’ve had a great career here,” Buhrman said.
Buhrman’s new role is largely focused on coordinating research across the different departments.
“It’s campus wide research, but it’s localized within the department. The management goes through the department. The vice provost’s office is for things that are not well suited to be handled by one department,” Buhrman said.
According to Buhrman, that includes programs such as the Cornell nanoscale facility that affects several departments.
Harris shared a similar sentiment, mentioning the need for Cornell to have more inter-departmental coordination, something which, according to Harris, the University excels at.
“The more we have cross campus collaborative things is to the benefit of the students population,” Harris said.