From Petrologist to Provost
A quick New England tip: don’t move here in January, especially if you’re coming from Los Angeles. Jean Morrison, the new University Provost and Chief Academic Officer, arrived on campus early this year, just in time to dig her way out of 72 inches of snow. “I’m originally from New York,” she says, laughing, “but I have to admit, this winter was a shocking reintroduction to East Coast weather.”
Formerly Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Southern California, Morrison succeeded University Provost David Campbell, who returned to teaching and research projects he’d set aside more than five years ago.
“The opportunity to join one of the nation’s premier research institutions is amazing,” she says, “and makes for some creative and unique possibilities.”
A nationally recognized geologist and professor of earth science, Morrison describes herself as a teacher at heart. In addition to holding a number of administrative posts at USC, she earned the University’s highest teaching honor and founded its Women in Science and Engineering program.
“Jean has the academic experience, skills, and vision to help the University continue on the path of increasing quality and impact,” says BU President Robert A. Brown.
As Provost, Morrison’s responsibility is twofold: to support the president and help implement his vision for the University, and to support academic deans and faculty members in improving the quality and stature of each school and college. To that end, she says, “We’ve put together a process of academic program review that will help us understand the strengths and weaknesses of our programs. I think with additional growth and support, our PhD programs in critical disciplinary fields will be absolutely top tier.”
The similarities between USC and BU will serve her well, Morrison continues, because both are large, urban research universities with significant undergraduate and graduate populations. “They’re both characterized by a college of arts and sciences and an array of professional schools,” she says. “Having had experience with the full breadth of disciplines and learning environments should be very helpful.”
With a background in metamorphic petrology—the study of how the Earth’s crust changes over time—Morrison says the nature of being a research scientist is being a problem solver. “There are aspects of being a researcher that roll into being an administrator,” she says. “There are complex systems in place in both environments that need to be understood to make the system run more smoothly.”
Thus far, Morrison says she is elated with her new position. “It’s an incredibly exciting time to be at BU,” she says. “There are many great things on the horizon.”