UPDATED: DePaul president Fr. Dennis Holtschneider to take academic leave in Fall 2014

DePaul University President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M. will take a five-month academic leave to assume the revolving position of “president- in-residence” at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education beginning Aug. 1.

At Harvard, Holtschneider will team teach a class on leadership and governance in higher education and mentor doctoral students. It also allows time for him to step away from DePaul for a short period to write, something that he doesn’t have time for as president.

“The great advantage for me is that it gives me an office and full library privileges at Harvard so that I can write,” he said. Holtschneider received his Ed.D from Harvard and has been teaching at the school during the summer since 2008.

The “president-in-residence” role dedicates an industry practitioner to the program to make sure that what they’re teaching is closely related to practice. Holtschneider said he will be there for just the fall semester because “I can’t leave DePaul for that long.”

Current Interim Provost Patricia O’Donoghue will take over as interim president during Holtschneider’s five-month leave of absence. David Miller, dean of the College of Computing and Digital Media, will serve as interim provost in addition to his role as CDM dean.

Miller will be the third person to hold the provost position in the past two years.

A year-long search committee selected Donald Pope-Davis as DePaul’s new provost who began in July 2013. He resigned Dec. 13, 2013 after only six months in the position and O’Donoghue returned as interim provost. The provost is the chief academic and student affairs officer at the university and reports directly to the president.

Holtschneider has held the president position at DePaul for 10 years. For long serving presidents, he said, it is becoming more typical to take at least a half-year sabbatical. On average, a president’s term at a private university typically lasts about five to six years, he said.

“It’s just simply not possible for me to dedicate the time to a major research piece that could become a book,” Holtschneider said. “(As president) every day has DePaul activities on it, and I love my job, but after 10 years, it’s nice to do something different for a quarter.”

Holtschneider reassured that it will be business as usual at DePaul during his time away.

“What makes this very easy for me and the board is that Dr. Pat O’Donoghue is able to serve as president while I’m away puts everyone instantly at ease because she’s a former university president, she’s done the job,” Holtschneider said. “People really respect her and what makes this easy is knowing that DePaul will be well-led during this period, and if that wasn’t true, I wouldn’t be able to leave.”

O’Donoghue spent nine years as president of Mount Mary University, a private Catholic university with an enrollment of about 1,700 in Milwaukee. O’Donoghue came to DePaul as vice president for alumni outreach and engagement in 2009.

“I know this institution,” O’Donoghue said. “I know the students, the faculty, the staff and the work that goes on here every day.”

O’Donoghue will retire January 2015 following Holtschneider’s return to the president position.

Despite being in and out of the interim provost over the past two years, O’Donoghue said serving as interim president didn’t impact her decision to retire.

“This appointment did not accelerate my retirement decision,” O’Donoghue said. “I have had a very long and satisfying career with so many different experiences, but I think at the end of this year is the time for a shift in my focus.”

Despite approval for O’Donoghue, some faculty expressed concern at Wednesday’s faculty council meeting over Miller splitting his time as interim provost and CDM dean.

“There’s concern about him wearing the two hats in maintaining his position as dean and interim provost,” one faculty council representative said. “It seems like a bad precedent to have someone’s attention split that way.”

When asked how he will split his time between the two positions, Miller said he will follow the example of O’Donoghue who has also split her time between two jobs.

However, O’Donoghue said that she did not keep her position as vice president of alumni engagement and outreach as provost but “completed some of the work I had initiated prior to my tenure as interim provost.”

Holtschneider said Miller was the second person recommended for the position behind O’Donoghue by faculty and staff and that he is not interested in the provost role permanently.

“He had a number of initiatives that are active in (CDM) and he didn’t want to take his foot off of the accelerator pedal in moving that school forward,” Holtschneider said. “And so he asked me if I would consider having him in both roles.”

Faculty and staff received an email Wednesday, March 5, but students were not included in the email because the leadership changes are not permanent, Holtschneider said.

It is unclear at the point when the university will start a new search for a permanent provost. Holtschneider said the faculty has asked to put together a recommendation and they will make a decision sometime in April.