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Photo by Russell Bailey

November 10, 2022

Open forums set for provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs

Four candidates for provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will meet with faculty, staff and students during a series of open forums on campus, beginning Monday, Nov. 14.

The four finalists were invited to campus for in-person interviews after a nationwide search that included a 27-member search committee comprising faculty, staff, students and a community representative.

The candidates, in alphabetical order, are:

  • David A. Brennen, professor, Frost, Brown & Todd Professor of Law, University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law.
  • Lynda Brown-Wright, institutional transformation consultant, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Center for Innovation in Post Secondary Education, University of South Alabama.
  • Melissa L. Gruys, dean and professor of management, Richard T. Doermer School of Business, Purdue University Fort Wayne.
  • Patrick C. Hughes, dean, university studies, Texas Tech University. 

Meet the candidates

The forums give the campus community an opportunity to meet with the candidates and are in conjunction with each of the candidate’s interviews.

Each of the forums begins at noon in the Student Center Auditorium and will be hosted by the search committee and constituency group leaders. During their respective forums, the candidates will discuss their vision for the university, followed by a Q&A from constituency groups.

The open forums will be available live on YouTube and recorded and available for later viewing.

The open forum schedule is:

  • Monday, Nov. 14 — Patrick C. Hughes.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 15 — Lynda Brown-Wright.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 16 — Melissa L. Gruys.
  • Thursday, Nov. 17 — David A. Brennen. 

Reporting directly to the chancellor, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs collaborates in setting overall academic programs and priorities for the university and allocates funds to carry these priorities forward. The provost provides leadership in student retention, faculty hiring, promotion and tenure, outreach to the community and overall student support.

Candidates all have extensive experience

Brennen has been with the University of Kentucky since 2009, including serving as law school dean for 11 years and has been in his present position since July 2020. He has held prior university academic appointments dating back to August 1995 at law schools at the University of Georgia, Mercer University, the University of Richmond and Syracuse University.  

Brennen’s experience includes two years as deputy director of the Association of American Law Schools, where he served as academic leader of the nonprofit organization that represented 170 of 200 American Bar Association accredited law schools in the United States. He was also an assistant general counsel for the state of Florida Department of Revenue and an associate attorney with a law firm in Tallahassee, Florida.

Brennen received his master of laws degree in tax law from the University of Florida graduate tax program in 1994 and his law degree from the University of Florida College of Law in 1991. He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Florida Atlantic University in 1988.

Brown-Wright has been in her present position at the University of South Alabama since April 2022; prior to that, she was at Jackson State University from spring 2018 until March 2022 serving in a variety of positions, including professor of psychology and provost and vice president for academic affairs. She has more than 30 years of academic and administrative leadership experience dating back to 1993 at other institutions, including Kentucky State University, Georgia State University and the University of Kentucky.

Her additional professional experience includes assistant professor with the University of Georgia Department of Counseling and Human Development Services and an associate school psychologist with the Harris County Department of Education in Houston, Texas.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Grambling State University and a master’s degree in educational psychology and educational specialist certification in school psychology from State University of New York, Albany. Brown-Wright earned her doctorate in counseling psychology from Texas A&M University.

Gruys has been with Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW) since 2016. Prior to her tenure there, Gruys was with Wright State University’s Raj Soin College of Business from 2006 to 2016, including serving as professor of management and chair of the Department of Management and International Business beginning in 2012. She also was an assistant professor at Washington State University-Vancouver College of Business and Economics and an instructor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

Gruys earned her doctorate in human resources and industrial relations from the University of Minnesota and bachelor’s degrees in management, economics and speech communication from the University of Minnesota, Morris.

Hughes has been with Texas Tech University since 2000, where he began an as an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies and later associate professor. He became a professor with the department in 2017. He has been in his present position since March 2022, with previous administrative experience in the university as associate vice provost and later vice provost, University Programs and Student Success; associate vice provost, Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs; associate dean for academic affairs, and department chair, communication studies.

Hughes earned his doctorate in communication from the University of Denver and a master’s degree in communication from Illinois State University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Augustana College.

The candidates’ full CVs are available on the chancellor’s website as are links to an evaluation form for each candidate.