International Job of Mystery

Understanding Ex-Provost David Graham’s New Gig

Concordia’s Former-Provost, David Graham photo Erin Sparks

If you’ve been paying close attention to Concordia’s administrative shuffling, you may have caught a few notable changes.

Despite agreeing in May to take on a second five-year term as provost, and having an evaluation process announced to assess his progress in that position, David Graham decided in June that he wouldn’t be seeking that second term, instead taking on a different job, one created specifically for him.

Graham’s new role at the university is defined as the senior advisor to the president on international strategy—and if you aren’t quite sure what that means, apparently you aren’t alone.

“You’re not the first to ask about that,” admitted Graham in an interview with The Link.

According to Graham, Concordia President Alan Shepard brought the idea of the new position to the table in June, just prior to his arrival in office on Aug. 1.

“The president asked me to think about taking this position on, and he made it clear that he thought it was important for Concordia’s future that we think about this, and that we have somebody with the time and experience in academic matters and strategic thinking to look carefully at whether we need a more coherent institutional approach [to internationalization,] and if so, what that approach should be,” said Graham.

According to Graham, his new job consists of a few elements that each circle around a portfolio of internationalization, the first and most basic of which is his role as an external representative of the university.

“The president has an awful lot on his plate, and one of the ways that I can be helpful is by representing Concordia on occasion internationally in part so that he doesn’t have to do that,” said Graham. “So that he doesn’t have to invest the time and energy it takes to travel and perform that representational function.”

This function would see Graham representing Concordia locally and abroad.

“It takes a load off of the president’s plate if I take on things like that,” he said.

The second and more demanding element of the new job is his role in international strategy. Graham considers there to be three phases to this role, the first of which is a bit, well, meta.

“The first of these phases would be to consider whether Concordia needs an international strategy or international approach institutionally, as opposed to a series of uncoordinated local approaches,” explained Graham.

Assuming that there’s a perceived need for an institutionalized approach to internationalization at Concordia, the job would be to move on to the second phase—developing a more concrete proposal for international strategy.

“[We would] go through the phases of consultation, writing, rewriting and redefinition that would be needed,” said Graham.

The proposal would then be brought forward for consideration by various administrative and academic bodies.

“Assuming that we’re ultimately successful in defining and adopting an institutional approach to internationalization, the third phase, and the final one from my point of view, would be to lay the groundwork for implementing that,” said Graham.

Currently trying to wrap up the first of three phases, Graham’s contract, as it is written, ends June 30, 2014.

“If we’re done by then, great,” he said. “If we’re not, the president and I will talk about how much work there still is to do and whether it’s desirable for me to go on doing it.”

As the first phase of assessing the need for an institutionalized international strategy is being finished, Graham intends to take what he’s learned to the academic cabinet, which is comprised of the provost, vice-provosts and deans of each faculty, and then to the president’s executive group.

Once they have heard his recommendations, Graham intends to extend the consultation process to the wider community, including a possible invitation to some faculty, staff and students who have experience and interest in international affairs.

“There’s a huge number of people here with a lot of experience, and I think it’s really important for us to hear from them,” said Graham.

The Change of Hands

Graham’s departure from his position as provost was just as quickly filled by former interim Associate Vice-Provost Lisa Ostiguy.

Ostiguy’s transition into her position as provost seems to have been equally as spontaneous as Graham’s was into his new job.

“It was a total surprise,” said Ostiguy in an interview with The Link earlier this month. “I had no inkling or sense that I would be part of a transition plan. I spoke with Alan Shepard a couple times informally; he then called me out of the blue and said, ‘How about being interim provost?’ It kind of caught me by surprise.”

The provost is the senior academic administrator at the university, and is responsible for overseeing academic functions of the university, and the implementation of the academic plan.

The president approached Ostiguy in June to take up her position as interim provost by September 1.

“I worked the whole semester and had no idea that I would be in the provost position, so there was no real transition or talking about it,” said Ostiguy.

When asked about training the new provost and the transition period between them, Graham thought otherwise.

“We had been working closely together when [Ostiguy] was interim vice provost, so it was natural for us to be working together anyway,” said Graham. “She and I did meet intensively on a number of occasions to talk about the transition, so there was work done on that.”

Ostiguy says that she is reviewing the university’s newly adopted academic plan and identifying priorities there, meanwhile working very closely with the president.

At the last Board of Governors meeting, a decision was approved to begin the process of searching for a new provost.