Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nick Jones: Candidate for UW-Madison Chancellor

This post is the second in a series of four.

It's hard to say much about Nick Jones, candidate for chancellor of UW-Madison, because hardly anyone seems to know who he is.  He's spent most of the last 30 years at a single, very elite private institution-- Johns Hopkins University-- where he's currently the dean of the Whiting School of Engineering.  About 10 years ago, Jones left Hopkins about about two years to work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but quickly returned. Apart from engaging in various engineering-related activities, he doesn't seem to have done much in higher education leadership.

That said, Jones is well-liked by those in the Hopkins community, and appears to be good at fundraising. Very nice.

But this is a case where having been a dean and the product of one institution may simply not be enough. He talks in terms of sports metaphors when describing his current job, noting that  "I’m an offensive lineman. Basically, I run interference for my faculty. At the end of the day, it’s the faculty who are on the field, trying to get stuff done and put together creative ideas. My job is to facilitate and make that happen. I have to get out in front and clear the path so that they can do what they do. I help get any impediments out of the way, such as administrative ones, and bring resources to the table to help make their aspirations come true."  Well frankly, being chancellor at Madison is going to require dealing with many more types of impediments and resources will be hard to come by-- and the job is first and foremost to help students, not faculty.

Johns Hopkins University is, to be quite frank, not a training ground for leading UW-Madison at all. It's small, very privileged, and well-known for being incredibly siloed. Jones seems quite nice, but frankly unprepared for this work.