Many members of the Gannon University community have spent the better part of a week puzzled over an email sent to all students, faculty and staff Wednesday, which stated that one member of the community was saying goodbye, while another has been ushered in immediately.
The email, signed by Keith Taylor, Ph.D., president of the university, stated that Andy Novobilski, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, would be leaving Gannon through mutual agreement, and Carolynn Masters, Ph.D., would immediately be appointed to the position.
Novobilski could not be reached for comment, but Taylor assured that the decision was mutual between himself and Novobilski. “As time has gone by,” Taylor said, “we came to an agreement that this wasn’t the best fit and he was going to move on to other professional pursuits.”
Though he had been in the position for just seven months before Masters took over, Novobilski’s colleagues have expressed that he was a good worker, and that it was a shock to see him go.
One of Novobilski’s colleagues was Michael Caulfield, Interim Associate Provost for the university and a professor of mathematics. Caulfield said Novobilski is easy-going and friendly, and always interested in what’s going on in everyone else’s world.
“It was a sad thing to hear that he would be leaving because I was enjoying working with him, and he had only been here for seven months,” Caulfield said. “So I felt like we had hardly gotten underway when he was moving on.”
Similarly, Penelope Smith, an assistant professor of English and a member of the Provost’s Council, said she felt she didn’t get much time to work with Novobilski and form an opinion before he left.
“I know that he worked hard and he was clearly conscientious and dedicated,” she said. “Beyond that, we were sort of still getting to know him.”
Caulfield said that while he is sad to see Novobilski go, is looking forward to working with Masters. “I certainly like Dr. Masters very much and I’m very happy to work with her as she transitions into the provost’s role,” he said.
Lexie Mastro, a junior physician assistant major and the elected student representative who sat on the search committee when Novobilski was hired, also said she is giving her support to Masters.
“I am happy to have met and interacted with Dr. Novobilski,” she said. “I wish him and his family the best going forward. I think now it is time to support Dr. Masters.”
Masters said she is “honored and humbled” to have been appointed to her new role at the university.
She said the position gives her the opportunity to lead the academic affairs division of the university during “what promises to be an exciting and accomplished time in Gannon’s history.
“I believe in Gannon; its mission, its Catholic identity, and its strong commitment to liberal education,” Masters said.
Though the role is clearly of high importance in the administration, both Caulfield and Taylor acknowledged that many people in the Gannon community may not know what a provost is or does.
Taylor stressed the importance of the full title – Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs – because it changed during the nation-wide search to fill the position last summer.
He said the provost, when he held the position, overlooked the academic side of the university as well as student engagement and development. Now, he said, these are two different positions, and the criteria change helped the search committee find both Novobilski and Masters in the first place.
“The search committee did their work and they moved two names forward to me,” Taylor said. “So looking at where we were at that time, and who else was on president’s staff at that time, I made the decision that Dr. Novobilski was the best suited for taking on the position.
“Dr. Novobilski is a bright man; he’s a good man,” he said. “He has not done anything illegal, anything unethical, immoral; none of those things. He is a good man.”
Taylor said he could not comment on the longevity of Novobilski’s contract or the financial settlement that was reached.
Looking forward, Taylor said, it made sense to immediately hire another applicant who was equally as qualified as Novobilski. He said that he is confident Masters is the right person for the job now.
“It just made sense to take the person that’s already here and give her the job because she earned it,” he said.
Caulfield said the job of Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Gannon includes the overseeing of different segments of the academic portion of the university. He said offices such as the student success center, the graduate council and the liberal studies program are all overseen by the provost.
“It’s certainly a lot to keep track of,” he said.
Jennifer Pothoven, a junior secondary education and English major, said that although she didn’t know what a provost did or was, she was surprised to read in her inbox that Novobilski was leaving. She said that she felt that the Gannon community should be given an indication as to why Novobilski was leaving.
“I do feel like I deserve to know,” Pothoven said, “because if it’s something the university did, I want to know about that.”
Taylor said that the circumstances regarding Novobilski’s departure are personnel matters. “What people deserve and what people want are two different things,” he said.
“We both came to an agreement that this wasn’t the right fit,” Taylor said. “He doesn’t have standing at the university because he’s not employed at the university anymore.”
Andy Novobilski’s daughter, Emily Novobilski – a sophomore with an undeclared major at Gannon – said she could not speak regarding her father’s departure, but said she is thinking about sticking around the university to finish her education.
“I do really like Gannon – the teachers are really nice and it’s been really enjoyable,” she said.
Caulfield said that the transition from Arkansas – where the Novobilski family lived before Andy’s appointment to Gannon – was a big change for the family.
“Now they’re going to be looking to make another big change,” he said. “But I’m glad that we had the seven months that we had.”
Taylor said that you always want things to be as you hoped they’d be, but that it doesn’t always work out that way.
“We’re disappointed; you always want things to work out, but sometimes they don’t. We’ll just accept that and move on.
“But I’m excited,” he said. “We have a senior leadership team that is now full. We’re ready to move forward with the strategic plan; ready to move forward with getting us all organized and continuing to move the university forward.”
Additionally, Taylor said that some more news will most likely be released later this week, as Masters will need some additional leadership help before the two vacant dean spots are filled. Taylor said that the spots should be filled in the summer, so that everyone is ready to go by fall.