Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones to step down

Jones, who will remain on as special assistant to President Neeli Bendapudi, has led significant efforts to advance Penn State’s mission and impact over nine years

June 22, 2022

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Penn State News. It highlights the contributions of Nick Jones, executive vice president and provost at Penn State, who is stepping down from the role and will return to the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The article also mentions Justin Schwartz, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean in the College of Engineering, who was named as the interim executive vice president and provost.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nick Jones, executive vice president and provost at Penn State, has announced he will step down Aug. 15 and transition into a new role as special assistant to the president through the end of 2022. Jones will return to the College of Engineering, where he has an appointment as a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

During his nine years as provost at Penn State, Jones has led a series of transformative efforts to enable and drive success for thousands of faculty members and nearly 90,000 students at Penn State’s campuses, including 24 throughout the commonwealth and the online World Campus.

As chief academic officer at Penn State, Jones oversees all academic units, including colleges, schools and campuses, as well as major academic support units such as University LibrariesPenn State IT, and the Offices of Educational Equity and Affirmative Action. In his role, Jones has committed himself to advancing the University’s academic mission, strategic planning, support for faculty and academic leaders, research, IT innovation, growth at Penn State’s campuses, and more. He also serves on the President’s Council, chairs Penn State’s Council of Academic Deans and the Academic Leadership Council and is an ex officio member of the University Faculty Senate and Senate Council.

“When I came to Penn State my mission was to help this great University reach even higher levels of excellence. Together, as a community, we’ve accomplished so much in our efforts to be bold, impact the world and advance our land-grant mission,” Jones said. “I have been inspired every day by Penn State’s talented faculty, staff and students. I am so proud of everyone who shows such commitment to this wonderful University. I’ve always said that the best thing about Penn State is our amazing and resilient people, and, for me, too, you have been the highlight of the past nine years. As I transition into a new role at the University, I will always value this community and the impact we’ve made.”

Penn State plans to conduct a national search for Jones’ successor this fall, working with a search firm to hire a permanent leader in the spring semester of 2023. On Aug. 15, Justin Schwartz, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean in the College of Engineering, will assume the role of interim executive vice president and provost following a transitional period that will begin in mid-July.

“Provost Jones has had a tremendous impact on the academic footprint of this University that will be felt for many years to come,” said Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi. “He has always been a champion for those around him and an innovative leader in critical areas, from strategic planning, to community building, to streamlining the ways we work together as a modern, 21st-century university to fulfill our mission. I am very pleased he will remain on as a special assistant in my office as his knowledge and experience are invaluable.”

Throughout his career as a higher education administrator, professor and scholar, Jones has honed an approach to leadership and strategic planning that inspires teams and emphasizes collaboration, innovation, and the development of critical cross-disciplinary initiatives and partnerships.

Among his accomplishments, Jones chaired the University Strategic Planning Council to develop the University-wide strategic plan, titled “Our Commitment to Impact,” which has served as a blueprint for Penn State advancement and innovation since 2016. Since its development, Jones has been instrumental in leading the implementation of the plan, which touches all areas of Penn State and aligns thematically with a variety of leadership priorities and philanthropic goals. As part of a seed grant process led by Jones, Penn State invested in a series of successful pilot programs that support the strategic plan and its thematic priorities, while simultaneously advancing the transformative work of students, faculty and staff across the University.

Throughout his tenure, Jones has recruited a number of accomplished deans and senior executives, adding to the diversity of Penn State leaders who are impacting the growth of the University and supporting student and employee success. Jones also has invested in efforts to support the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff members, and career development for tenure- and nontenure-track faculty across Penn State. Two deans appointed by Jones — Danielle M. Conway, dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law at Penn State Dickinson Law; and Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts and professor of African American studies — co-chaired the Select Penn State Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias, and Community Safety. 

As a champion for the University’s land-grant mission, Jones has prioritized efforts to enable excellence and support students, faculty and staff at Penn State’s campuses across the commonwealth. “Working with Provost Jones has been a true pleasure. His commitment to Penn State’s campuses is felt across the commonwealth and he has always made significant effort traveling and engaging with our campuses to understand our unique communities, needs and challenges,” said Kelly Austin, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor.

Along with his leadership to build an integrated, flexible and responsive learning environment through One Penn State 2025, Jones was instrumental in a series of efforts to transition the University’s legacy email, financial and student- and business-information systems to agile, best-in-class IT tools — such as SIMBA and LionPATH — that are built to grow and adapt to the evolving needs of the University. Jones also spearheaded the University-wide adoption of two-factor authentication as part of efforts to boost information security and protect students, faculty, staff and University systems. In addition, he has been an instrumental part of the administrative team’s focus on critical cost-savings efforts across the University in support of Penn State’s mission and commitment to access and affordability.

Since 2020, Jones, an ever-present and steady leader during unprecedented times, has been pivotal in the ongoing operational management of the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From the outset of the pandemic, Jones oversaw the COVID-19 Management Team and established the COVID-19 Operations Control Center to prioritize the health and safety of Penn State students, faculty and staff.

Jones came to Penn State in July 2013 from Johns Hopkins University, where he served as the Benjamin T. Rome Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering for nine years. During his time at Johns Hopkins, he oversaw a strategic restructuring that led to strong gains in enrollment, expanded academic offerings, significant gains in funded research, diversification of the faculty and student body and the establishment of several institutes focused on interdisciplinary research, among other achievements.

Jones began his career as a member of the faculty in the Department of Civil Engineering at Johns Hopkins in 1986 and was appointed chair of the department in 1999. For two years, he served as a professor and head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before returning to Johns Hopkins in 2004 to take the role of dean.

Throughout his career, Jones has earned numerous awards for teaching and research, including Johns Hopkins’ Heritage Award and George Owen and Robert Pond teaching awards, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Presidential Young Investigator Award, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Huber Research Prize and Robert H. Scanlan Medal and Johns Hopkins’ Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award.

Jones has served on a number of national committees, including the ASCE’s National Infrastructure Policy Committee, the NSF’s blue-ribbon panel to review engineering research centers, and the Public Policy Committee of the Engineering Deans Institute. In addition, he was the international editor of the Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics for five years and chairs the Board of Members of the Big Ten Academic Alliance.

Originally from New Zealand, Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Auckland and both master’s and doctoral degrees in civil engineering from the California Institute of Technology. 


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