Suzanne Blum Malley to step in as interim provost


Mike Rundle

Suzanne Blum Malley to step in as interim provost

By Ariana Portalatin and Tessa Brubaker

Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden will leave the college in January 2 019 to become president of Methodist University, five months earlier than his previously planned departure in June. 

Senior Associate Provost and Associate Professor in the English and Creative Writing Department Suzanne Blum Malley will succeed Wearden on an interim basis, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim  announced to faculty and staff in an email on Oct. 10. 

Kim said Wearden approached him with news of the job opportunity at Methodist University a couple months ago, and Kim encouraged him to pursue it, even when Wearden informed him that Methodist University wanted him to start in January.

“It certainly was my intention to leave in June, but this opportunity came up, and they wanted someone sooner,” Wearden said. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Wearden said he appreciates that Methodist University is a traditional liberal arts school that offers programs in other professional areas, such as health and sciences, and that it is a faith-based school.

 “I like a school where students really get an opportunity through the curriculum to explore their spirituality,” Wearden said. “I got my Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, so in some ways, it’s kind of like going home for me. It’s a strong school with a strong tradition and a strong reputation.”

Blum Malley said she was offered the interim position shortly after Wearden informed Kim that he would be taking the president position at Methodist University. She said she is excited for Wearden and his new role, as well as her own.

“I am, of course, sorry to see him go, but very happy for him,” Blum Malley said. “I’m excited about stepping into the interim provost role. We’ve worked really closely over the last several years, so I have a strong sense of what we’ve been working on and how to guide it for the next six months.”

Kim said Wearden’s earlier departure from the college will not affect the current nationwide provost search. If the search continues on schedule, a new provost will be hired in March, he said.

Deciding to choose Blum Malley for the position was easy because her current role closely mirrors the provost’s responsibilities, Kim said.

“She’s in there in all the decision making and all the meetings, so it seemed like the most obvious handover,” Kim said. “When I asked, she was interested and willing, so I was pleased that was relatively easy to decide.”

Sean Andrews, associate professor in the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department and president of Faculty Senate, said he is happy for Wearden and his new position, but is concerned about the how the college will manage the transition.

“I’m disappointed that we will have to manage another round of transition between his departure and the arrival of a new provost,” Andrews said. “But I am confident the associate provost will be able to carry on the work we’ve all been doing so far this year.”

Blum Malley said she does not see the sudden change disrupting any plans the college currently has or the nationwide search.

While she already knows the majority of the responsibilities in her new position, Blum Malley said one aspect of the job she will have to learn and get used to is interacting with the Board of Trustees.

“Because of the way the Office of the Provost works as a team and works with the deans and associate deans, I don’t have any concerns about us continuing to move forward what we’re working on,” Blum Malley said. “We’ve got a strong, collaboratively working group, so I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Blum Malley said she does not yet know what will happen to the associate provost position, but said it is likely to remain open until the new provost is appointed.

Kim said it was unlikely Blum Malley would later be permanently appointed to the position because the national search is still underway. Blum Malley is on the search committee.

Wearden said his time at Columbia has helped prepare him for his new role because of the management skills he gained working in different areas and committees at the college.

“It’s been such an honor and a privilege for me to work here, and I’m very proud of this institution,” Wearden said. “I’m always going to be one of the cheerleaders for Columbia College Chicago, no matter where else I might be.”