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Who’s in charge at Miami University? It’s complicated.

The top administrators at Miami University are spread across several offices, including the President's Executive Cabinet (blue), the Provost's Office (red) and the academic deans (yellow).
The top administrators at Miami University are spread across several offices, including the President's Executive Cabinet (blue), the Provost's Office (red) and the academic deans (yellow).

Running a university is hard.

At Miami University, 17 Trustees, a 20-member Executive Cabinet for the president, an 11-member Provost’s Office, an academic dean for each college and a host of other administrators come together daily to make decisions that impact students and faculty alike. 

In an effort to condense the information on administrators spread across a dozen websites, The Miami Student has compiled a who’s-who of administrators and how university leadership functions.

Who answers to the state government?

As a public institution, Miami has a close relationship with Ohio’s state government. The governor, for example, appoints most of the Board of Trustees.

Amy Shoemaker, Miami’s general counsel and chief ethics officer, reports to the state attorney general in addition to the university president and Board of Trustees.

Some decisions have to be approved by the Ohio Department of Education before Miami is free to implement them. These include changes in tuition, like the addition of the mental health fee, as well as the creation of new majors like arts management and arts entrepreneurship in 2021.

Board of Trustees

Each year, the governor appoints an Ohio resident, with advice from the Senate, to serve a nine-year term on the board. These members are the only trustees who can serve as officers on the board and are the only voting members.

The governor also chooses two students enrolled at Miami to serve staggered two-year terms. These two students are not allowed to attend executive sessions for the board and do not vote.

The board itself then selects up to six non-compensated National Trustees, who must be notable alumni residing outside Ohio, to serve three-year terms on the board; they cannot serve more than six years. National Trustees can vote and serve as chairs only within committees.

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The Board of Trustees is the only group at the university with the ability to grant honorary degrees and rename buildings. It also oversees administrative decisions and gives power to the president to make university policies.

David Creamer, Miami’s treasurer and senior vice president (VP) for finance and business services, said many financial decisions also have to go through the board.

“The board, when we do construction projects, has to approve those,” Creamer said. “They review the financial statements of the university to make sure that the university is fiscally operating in a responsible way, so they rely upon me to make sure that information is provided to them.”

The board is required to meet at least four times a year. Mary Schell is the chair for the board and currently, only four National Trustees serve the board.

President’s Executive Cabinet

President Greg Crawford makes decisions in tandem with the President’s Executive Cabinet (PEC), a board of 19 VPs, directors, associate VPs and assistants, plus Crawford himself.

The PEC meets weekly to collaborate on big-picture issues facing the university. At the height of the pandemic, it met twice a week, and several members sat on the COVID Response Team.

Some members of the PEC report to others as well as Crawford. Dawn Fahner, associate VP for human resources, reports to David Creamer. Susan McDowell, VP for research and innovation, is also a member of the Provost’s Office and reports to Interim Provost Liz Mullenix, as does VP for Regional Campuses and Dean of Regionals Ande Durojaiye. Director of Executive Communications Ashlea Jones reports to Interim VP for Communications Jessica Rivinius.

Most members of the PEC oversee a team of other people, as well.

David Seidl, VP for Information Technology (IT) and Chief Information Officer (CIO), ultimately oversees 120 people in the IT department, though only five directly report to him. Still, he tries to keep his door open to everyone.

“I like [an organization] where people can walk in,” Seidl said. “I like one where the CIO is not scary, so my goal has always been to not be a scary CIO.”

Provost’s Office

The provost is Miami’s chief academic officer. Currently the position is held by Mullenix, but that may change as the university is searching for someone to fill a permanent position. 

Mullenix said the position is focused on internal problems and the execution of strategic plans.

“I feel very excited about supporting and celebrating the faculty,” Mullenix said. “I’ve met with almost every department chair both in Oxford and on the regionals for an hour, one-on-one. I figured that would be the best way to learn about their degree programs and their faculty and what they’re doing.”

Mullenix is new to the Provost’s Office this year and still learning. During his tenure as provost, her predecessor Jason Osborne oversaw the implementation of the academic policies laid out in Miami’s Strategic Plan, including leading an academic program review, creating an honors college and revamping the Global Miami Plan, now the Miami Global Plan.

Mullenix is supported by an additional 10 members of the Provost’s Office. This includes a senior associate provost, three additional associate provosts (two of whom are also deans), VP McDowell, four associate VPs and an executive assistant.

As the most academically focused branch of administration, most staff in the Provost’s Office deal with a specific aspect of education at Miami.

Academic Deans

Each academic college has a dean who directly reports to the provost while also working with associate provosts, VPs and other deans. Three other deans work for the university libraries, graduate school and undergraduate education. All the deans serve on the Council of Academic Deans, which works with other administrators to advise the provost. 

Deans directly oversee department chairs and office staff but indirectly oversee their entire academic colleges. For example, dean of the College of Arts and Science (CAS) Chris Makaroff only has 40 people reporting to him, yet he is in charge of nearly 10,000 people. 

“My duties are to serve as the lead administrator for the CAS, overseeing 28 academic departments, two institutes, and nine centers/facilities,” Makaroff wrote in an email to The Student. “As CAS Dean, I oversee approximately 350 full-time faculty and 300 graduate teaching assistants, 135 staff, and 7,500 undergraduate and 1,400 graduate students.”

Some of the academic college deans’ specific duties include recruiting majors, approving courses, overseeing budgets and curriculums and evaluating faculty promotion and tenure.

Prior to becoming interim provost, Mullenix was the dean of the College of Creative Arts. There, she said one of her favorite parts of the job was fundraising.

“A dean’s job is very external,” Mullenix said. “The deans are in charge of fundraising for their division, raising money for scholarships and professorships and programs.”

What’s the difference between assistants and associates?

Depending on the department a person is in, having assistant or associate before a title may mean something different.

In the Provost’s Office, Cox said associate provosts or VPs come from teaching roles, while assistants come from staff positions. 

In an email to The Student, VP for Student Life Jayne Brownell wrote that associates rank higher than assistants in her department. Kimberly Moore, Dean of Students and associate VP for Student Life, the department’s only associate VP, would take charge if Brownell was out.

Across departments, Miami has nine assistant VPs and six associate VPs. There are 16 associate deans and six assistant deans across each academic division.

Makaroff wrote CAS’s three associate deans are tenured professors who represent the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.

“They help me manage the departments' day-to-day operations within their cognate areas,” Makaroff wrote. “ … Our assistant dean is not a faculty member but rather a chief academic advisor who oversees the day-to-day aspects of our advising activities and manages our advising staff.”

Why it matters

On a daily basis, students have little reason to interact with administrators. But the decisions administration makes impact students, faculty and staff alike.

Jones wrote in an email to The Student that students, faculty and staff do get a say in these decisions, and most administrative departments have formal committees or councils to advise them.

“Miami University’s decision making model includes shared governance,” Jones wrote, “meaning that faculty, professional staff, administrators, students and governing boards share responsibility in the direction of the university and the creation of policies. Specific groups have primary responsibility for making final decisions on particular topics … but usually with input and insight from multiple constituent groups.

Beyond impacting students, Seidl said the structure of an organization’s administration reveals its values. Who gets a seat on the PEC is just as important as who gets left out.

“[The structure] matters enough that if you’re looking at institutions, it can be indicative of certain behaviors or of ways that they function,” Seidl said. “Structure and how they actually work doesn’t always line up one to one, but it can be an indicator as you’re looking.”

Additional Reporting by Asst. Campus & Community Editor Alice Momany and Social Media Editor Megan McConnell