Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway named new Northwestern provost

Peter Kotecki, Campus Editor

Jonathan Holloway, dean of Yale College, will become Northwestern’s next provost, the University announced Monday.

Northwestern has been searching for a new provost since June when the University announced that Dan Linzer would step down at the end of this academic year. Holloway will start July 1, 2017.

The Yale dean was selected after an interview process that included input from 11 faculty, five University trustees and five senior administrators, said University President Morton Schapiro in an October interview with The Daily. Schapiro said he made the final decision to hire Holloway.

Before he became dean in July 2014, Holloway was chair of Yale’s African-American studies department. Holloway also teaches history and American studies, and he specializes in post-emancipation U.S. history. He completed his bachelor’s degree in American studies at Stanford University, after which he earned three degrees at Yale, including a Ph.D. in history. Holloway has taught at Yale since 1999.

Holloway is in his third year of a five-year term as dean of Yale College. In an email addressed to the Yale College community sent Monday, Holloway said when he was appointed to the position he had planned to serve at least a full term, and it was “difficult to arrive at the decision to leave so soon.”

In the same email, Yale University President Peter Salovey said Holloway’s decision to leave the university was an “incalculable” loss, calling Holloway a “revered teacher and mentor.”

Peter Huang, Yale’s student body president, said Holloway is well-regarded by most Yale students and has a reputation for listening to students’ concerns.

“He’s made a point of being receptive to students no matter how busy he is,” Huang said. “We can tell he cares.”

Huang also noted that some students have complained that despite Holloway being a good listener, there’s “sometimes a perception that nothing changes.” But Huang added that this criticism is leveled at most Yale administrators, not just Holloway.

In November 2015, hundreds of Yale students crowded the university’s quad during a week of protests that called on administrators to do more to support marginalized students. Holloway stood for three hours and listened to students’ stories and criticism, and he eventually addressed the crowd.

“It is painful for me — as someone who has a vested interest in supporting you — to hear what you have just told me, but I am glad you did,” he told students, according to a story in the Yale Daily News. “I’m here for you. I do have your back. Please know that I have heard your stories, and I’ll leave here changed.”

During the protests, Holloway wanted to support students coming from all sides of the issues discussed, he told The Daily.

“I felt it important to be a visible presence since so many people involved in the protests were undergraduates,” Holloway said in an email to The Daily. “I also felt it important at times to lay back a bit so that I wasn’t interfering with individuals’ or groups’ opportunities to express their opinions.”

Holloway said he intends to visit NU regularly over the next few months. Although he already knows faculty in some of the humanities departments at NU, Holloway said he will work to get better acquainted with members of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields at the university.

“These are areas of incredible strength to Northwestern, and I want to do what I can to support them,” he said.

Holloway will replace Linzer, who served a decade in the position. Last week, Schapiro told The Daily it was a “blessing” to work closely with Linzer.

Schapiro, whose schedule requires him to travel frequently, said his priority was to hire a provost he could fully trust.

“I have to rely on the provost without having to look over the provost’s shoulder,” Schapiro told The Daily in October.

With the search process for Linzer’s successor now over, Schapiro said he is looking forward to working with Holloway.

“I think people are really going to, once they get to know this person, they are going to be really excited,” Schapiro told The Daily last week. “I say that from faculty, from staff, from graduate and professional and from undergrads. This person has got lots of experience dealing with undergrads as well as those other areas, and it happens to be a passion of this person.”

Although Holloway’s position as dean of Yale College allowed him to be “deeply embedded” with undergraduates there, he said his new position is a broader responsibility that includes working with faculty and school deans.

“It’s a bigger job than I’ve done in the past, but really interesting and compelling,” he said. “It’s exciting to think about the possibilities.”

Shane McKeon contributed reporting.

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Twitter: @peterkotecki