Provost’s focus is the future

Dr. Thomas J. LeBlanc has recently completed his third month at the University of Miami serving as the University’s chief academic and budget officer, overseeing 12 schools and colleges, research administration, students, admissions, research funding and expenditures.

LeBlanc, who was selected as the new provost and vice president of the University in May 2005, arrived on campus with many expectations and goals in mind.

“I was hoping to find an institution ready to make a major leap forward and I have not been disappointed,” he said, adding that President Donna E. Shalala, the Board of Trustees and faculty members are working with him to improve UM as an institution.

Immediate goals include focusing on the undergraduate experience, improving retention and graduation rates; building graduate and research programs of national stature and recruiting and retraining distinguished faculty.

In the future, Leblanc also hopes to see the University of Miami recognized as being among the top research universities in the country.

“The students can see the improvement in the student body year by year and seem pleased with the growing reputation of the institution,” LeBlanc said.

To achieve these goals, LeBlanc hopes to spend most of this year learning about the University and talking to faculty, students and staff about ideas for improvement. He has also posed some specific questions for the community to think about and focus their discussion.

“By the end of the year I hope to have reached a consensus on some near-term goals and specific steps to achieve them,” he said. “I would also like to integrate the strategic plans of each individual school into a broader plan for the University as a whole.”

One of the decisions the Provost recently undertook with other administrators was to substitute the Monday, Dec. 3, reading day with class to make up for the days of class missed during hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“We lost two Mondays, a Tuesday and a Friday to hurricane closures,” LeBlanc said. “Since the Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes were most impacted by the storms, and those classes lost three class periods, we felt we had to make up at least one of those classes. The only time for doing so was during the reading period. This was the simplest solution.”

Before coming to UM, LeBlanc served as the Vice Provost and Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty at the University of Rochester.

“I have dealt with many of the issues UM now faces. At Rochester we worked hard to improve the quality of the student body, the undergraduate experience and retention,” he said. “We also worked on building and maintaining programs of national prominence. I learned how to address critical strategic questions, such as ‘how big should the University of Miami be?’ All of these experiences will serve me well in thinking about the future of UM.”

Rahila Odhwani can be contacted at