University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols is getting a new right-hand woman, and she has some ideas coming to the position of provost.
Kate Miller was selected to replace David Jones as the new provost and vice president for academic affairs earlier this month. She spent seven years as dean of Texas A&M University’s College of Geosciences and wanted to take a new step to Wyoming.
“I’m definitely looking for a new challenge and opportunity,” she said. “I’ve had a great run at A&M and want to put my knowledge to use elsewhere.”
A search committee was created in January and immediately began a nationwide hunt for the next provost. The 17-member group spent months sifting through applications and names, eventually bringing three finalists to campus. Nichols made the final selection.
“(Miller) really did end up rising to the top for a couple of different reasons,” Nichols said. “She really has a stellar educational background. She’s pursued fields that really are a wonderful fit with us right now. I always try to find people who can complement me. Where I’m strong, I try to find people whose strengths are elsewhere. Where I’m weak, I try to find people with that strength.”
Another factor for Nichols was Miller’s experience in budget reductions. She’s worked through both a 5 percent cut and a 10 percent budget cut during her time as dean.
“Seven years ago, we went through a very similar situation,” Miller said. “I didn’t know at the time that I would be going through budget cuts, but I’ve done cuts very similar to those that we’ll be facing this year and next year. I also know you come out the other side and, in the end, you usually end up better for it.”
The budgetary experience will be needed for the coming years, Nichols said.
“Given where we’re at right now — a strong academic leader to help us navigate things like work load and academic program review is so important, and I thought (Miller) can do that for us,” she said. “She’s been there, she’s done it. She cut the budget at Texas. She’s run a large college and done a stellar job with it. She’s run it and made it stronger over her seven years as dean.”
While Miller has been through budget cuts, she’s not coming in with any set plans for UW.
“I bring a lot of experience, and I executed a number of different strategies, but I’m not coming in with a preconceived notion,” she said. “I think, sometimes, one hopes that someone coming from the outside will have the magic solution. But the fact is, it’s so important to understand the place that you’re coming into and how it operates and what its priorities are. Until I get a solid understanding of that, I’m not going to impose anything.”
Miller has already met with the deans and many other leaders on campus and looks forward to working with and creating a strong plan moving into the future.
“It’s not about my vision, it’s about developing a vision together,” she said. “I will be working with deans who have already been on the ground. I will be relying on them to work with me and help me understand what their challenges are and what their opportunities are.”
While she’s coming from Texas, Miller’s geologist background brought her to Wyoming many times, working in field camps starting 35 years ago, and said UW has a lot to offer.
“I’ve done a lot of research in many areas of the state,” she said. “I didn’t really know, at the time I accepted the job, UW was going through such severe budget cuts. But I’ve seen that transition to the other side, and I’m confident that UW will come out with new opportunities. The university has a lot of strong support and scholarship.”