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UNM makes its pick for next provost

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A professor who rose to vice provost over the course of almost three decades at the University of Michigan will be the next top academic official at the University of New Mexico.

UNM announced Wednesday its next provost and executive vice president for academic affairs will be James Paul Holloway, who started at UM in 1990 and moved up the ranks from an assistant nuclear engineering professor to vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs. He became an associate dean at the university in 2007 and he’s been a vice provost since 2013.

Four finalists were selected for the position, and both Holloway and Michael Benedik, a vice provost at Texas A&M University, visited the UNM campus in March and took part in several public forums. Two other candidates were selected as finalists at some point, but they took jobs elsewhere during UNM’s hiring process.

The university has refused to identify those finalists, despite repeated requests from the Journal for their names.

Holloway and UNM have agreed on a five-year contract, according to university officials, so the appointment may bring stability to the position.

Three different people have held the provost position at UNM since 2017, and it’s been held by an interim for several lengthy stretches, including the entire current school year. Holloway is replacing Chaouki Abdallah, who was UNM’s last permanent provost before leaving last summer.

Holloway earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of Illinois, and a doctorate in engineering physics from the University of Virginia. His biography on UNM’s website says his work “has focused on computational and mathematical modeling of neutral particle transport, plasma kinetics and hydrodynamics, and related problems in inverse problems and plasma tomography.”

The provost is the top academic official at the university and one of three top executives who report directly to the UNM president. University officials said that Holloway’s contract is being finalized and it wasn’t made available on Wednesday. But Cinnamon Blair, a university spokeswoman, said the provost’s contract will be for five years with an annual salary of $320,000. He also gets $25,000 in deferred compensation and $25,000 in incentive pay. His appointment will begin July 1.

“I’ve been impressed by the willingness of the UNM community to be bold and to question, and for their love of the place,” Holloway said in a news release. “I’m excited and honored to have a chance to serve this great university.”

Holloway didn’t respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

UNM President Garnett Stokes selected Holloway from candidates who were also evaluated by a search committee. Barbara McCrady, a distinguished professor of psychology, was the chair of that committee, which included officials from a variety of campus positions.

The university also contracted with a private search firm – Isaacson, Miller – for the initial part of the search, for up to $126,000, according to university documents.

“The search committee did an outstanding job in identifying all the exceptional qualities we hoped to find in our new provost, and was extremely enthusiastic about the talent and vision that Dr. Holloway will bring to this position,” Stokes said in the release.

Abdallah’s final provost salary was $315,000, Blair said. The interim provost is making $250,000 per year, according to the university’s website.

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