Patricia E. Beeson Elected Pitt’s New Provost, Senior Vice Chancellor by Pitt Board of Trustees

Issue Date: 
June 28, 2010
Patty Beeson talks to reporters following her election as provostPatty Beeson talks to reporters following her election as provost

Patricia E. Beeson was elected provost and senior vice chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh by the University’s Board of Trustees at its June 25 annual meeting. Dr. Beeson, currently Pitt’s vice provost for graduate and undergraduate studies, was recommended for the position of provost by Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg.

“My recommendation of Dr. Beeson is grounded in her 27-year record of achievement and impact as a faculty member and administrator at the University of Pittsburgh and my assessment that her abilities, commitment, and experience best position Dr. Beeson to contribute to Pitt’s continued rise within the ranks of the country’s top public research universities as provost,” said Chancellor Nordenberg.

“I feel privileged and am delighted to have been selected as the next provost of this great University, which has been my professional home for the past 27 years,” said Dr. Beeson. “During those years, I have come to know, respect, and enjoy the faculty, staff, students, and alumni who make up our University community and have felt fortunate to contribute to an institution that has been so good to me in so many ways. The considerable progress we have made in recent years, led by a strong chancellor/provost partnership, has been the result of our working together to achieve our common goals. I look forward to the opportunity to work with the Chancellor, and with all of the dedicated and talented people at Pitt, to continue to advance the University.”

In her new position, which she will assume on Aug. 15, Dr. Beeson will serve as the University’s chief academic officer, exercising general oversight over academic affairs on all five Pitt campuses. Working closely with the Chancellor and other members of the University’s senior leadership team, including the senior vice chancellor for the health sciences, the provost plays a key role in developing and advancing the University’s academic vision and plans, in enhancing the University’s commitment to excellence in education and research, and in building strong University partnerships in community and economic development. Among many other responsibilities, the provost also plays a key role in efforts to continually improve the quality of student life, chairs the University Planning and Budgeting Committee, and is a leader in the development and implementation of technology transfer policies.

The continuing progress of the University, the Chancellor noted in his recommendation of Dr. Beeson, depends upon the contributions of a provost who possesses both the academic vision and the fiscal discipline to foster future success in a world that is characterized not only by nearly limitless opportunities but also by clearly limited resources; who is energized by Pitt’s momentum, believes in its still-untapped potential, and will work tirelessly to advance its collective efforts to realize that potential; who is committed to fundamental academic values and to the highest academic standards; who can communicate effectively with the many constituent groups whose support will be essential to its continuing progress; who can earn the confidence of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends, as well as trustees; and who will work productively as part of an accomplished leadership team.

The chancellor said that Dr. Beeson has the ability, ambition, experience, and values to serve as provost as Pitt continues its never-ending quest to “clearly and consistently demonstrate that this is one of the finest and most productive universities in the world.”

When James V. Maher announced last year his decision to step down from his current position as provost and senior vice chancellor after more than 15 years of acclaimed service in the role, Chancellor Nordenberg convened a search committee and charged it to identify qualified candidates for this key position. As a first step in its dedicated efforts, which spanned several months, the committee attracted more than 150 applications and nominations. From that large list, a number of particularly promising candidates were invited to Pittsburgh for personal interviews with the committee. Based on those interviews, as well as its review of the written records and reference checking, the committee submitted the names of unranked recommended candidates to the Chancellor.

Each of the Committee’s recommended candidates was brought to the University for extensive interviews with the Chancellor and members of his senior leadership team. At that point, the list was further narrowed, and finalist candidates were brought back to the University for additional meetings with the Chancellor and for interviews with representatives of the Council of Deans, members of the professional staff in the Office of the Provost, representatives of Equipoise and the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns, and other members of the University’s central leadership team. After careful consideration of all of the information generated through this exhaustive process, Chancellor Nordenberg made his recommendation of Dr. Beeson.

“Patty Beeson is one of the most impressively capable people I have worked with during my career,” commented Dr. Maher.  “She has contributed in important ways to the progress the University has made in recent years, and I am confident that as provost she will apply her considerable talent very effectively to moving the University up to an even higher level of attainment.”

Randy Juhl, the University’s vice chancellor for research conduct and compliance, who chaired the search committee, said, “Dr. Beeson was selected from a very strong pool of more than 150 highly qualified applicants for the position. She distinguished herself from the beginning of the interviews with the search committee and gained momentum as she progressed to the next round as one of six top candidates—each of whom had impressive academic credentials and significant administrative experience at AAU universities.

“That Dr. Beeson was selected from this very strong pool of candidates is not only a testament to her skills and talents, but also reflects well upon the comparative strength of the University as a proving ground for senior academic leaders,” Juhl added.

Patricia E. Beeson earned the Bachelor of Science degree in economics from Oregon State University and the Ph.D. in economics from the University of Oregon. She joined the University of Pittsburgh as an assistant professor in the Department of Economics in 1983. In 1990, she was tenured and promoted to the rank of associate professor, and in 2000, she was promoted to the rank of professor. She also has held a visiting faculty appointment at the University of Michigan and has received research support from the Sloan Foundation, the Ameritech Foundation, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Dr. Beeson’s scholarly focus is on regional and urban economics. Many of her publications—in such peer-reviewed journals as the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Journal of Urban Economics, and the Journal of Regional Science—have focused on issues of direct relevance to an institution like Pitt, which is situated in a region that continues to move through a process of economic transformation. Examples include such articles as “Source of the Decline of Manufacturing in Large Metropolitan Areas,” “Amenities and Regional Differences in Returns to Worker Characteristics,” “The Effects of Colleges and Universities on Local Labor Markets,” and “Industrial Change and Wage Inequality: Evidence from the Steel Industry.”

Much of Dr. Beeson’s most recent work was devoted to a major research project undertaken in collaboration with colleagues from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, where she served as a research associate for nearly a decade and as a visiting scholar on two separate occasions. That work was tied to amendments to the federal Housing Mortgage Disclosure Act that generated a very large body of new data, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland charged to examine the full universe of national data to assess what could be learned about lender practices, particularly with respect to issues of regulatory concern, such as the role of race in the initiation and outcome of the home loan application process.

Even more recently, Dr. Beeson has been involved in another data-intensive collaboration. This project examines the nature and growth of U.S. counties from 1840 to 1990. A distinguishing feature of this work is that it, too, is based on a huge database — location characteristics developed on a county-by-county basis and covering an expansive period of 150 years. Through this work, she and her collaborators examine fundamental questions related to the establishment and subsequent growth of cities, such as the importance of natural advantages and the persistence of population centers over time.

During her years as a faculty member, Dr. Beeson made important contributions beyond her own teaching and scholarship to the advancement of both her department and the School of Arts and Sciences. Those contributions included service as director of graduate studies for the Department of Economics and as a member of the College of Arts and Sciences Council, the College of General Studies Council, and the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns.

In 2001, Dr. Beeson assumed the first of a succession of important administrative appointments when she was named associate dean for undergraduate studies in the School of Arts and Sciences. Among other contributions she made, she is credited with guiding the implementation of a new undergraduate curriculum that has further developed an academic culture in which students are more fully engaged with faculty in the scholarly activities of the University. She also directed a team of assistant deans and other professionals directly engaged in delivering student services, including the Arts and Sciences Advising Center, the Academic Resource Center, the Office of Experiential Learning, Student Records, and Freshman Programs.

In 2004, Dr. Beeson joined the Office of the Provost as vice provost for graduate studies. Two years later, she also assumed responsibility for undergraduate studies, which traditionally had been a separate position, and since then has served as vice provost for graduate and undergraduate studies. In that role, Dr. Beeson has been responsible for graduate and undergraduate studies across the University’s 16 schools and four regional campuses — encompassing more than 400 academic programs and nearly 35,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. She has served as chair of both the University Council for Graduate Studies and the Provost’s Advisory Committee for Undergraduate Programs.

Within the Office of the Provost, Dr. Beeson has played a lead role in the University’s assessment efforts and has been deeply engaged in strategic planning. Working with the director of admissions and financial aid and the dean of students, she has helped lead Pitt’s enrollment management efforts, as well as initiatives to increase student retention, graduation, and satisfaction. She also has been actively engaged at national and statewide levels on issues of assessment and accountability and is widely regarded as a leader in those areas. From each of the positions she has held and as chair of the Provost’s Advisory Committee for Women’s Concerns, she has contributed to the creation of a more diverse University community.

In her assessment and planning efforts, Dr. Beeson has worked closely with the Office of Institutional Research. She also has served as the Office of the Provost’s principal contact person for the School of Arts and Sciences, the Swanson School of Engineering, the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, the University of Pittsburgh Press, the Office of Measurement and Evaluation of Teaching, the Office of the Registrar, and the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.