Mark Searle named ASU provost

Mark Searle, an accomplished university administrator, distinguished scholar, and founding dean of Arizona State University’s College of Human Services, has been named as executive vice president and university provost.

ASU President Michael Crow promoted Searle to the post, which Searle has held in an interim capacity since June, and charged him with mapping out a three-year plan to raise student retention and graduation rates, increase tenure track faculty and increase access to higher education for qualified students. The Arizona Board of Regents approved Searle’s appointment today.

“Mark has served ASU with distinction for decades in increasingly complex roles,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “His experience, skill, commitment to a modernized and innovative ASU and work ethic have proven to be invaluable to ASU and all that the institution is achieving. In addition he is well regarded by faculty, students and leaders throughout and around the institution.”

While ASU already has increased access for qualified students, the success of the state and the country depends in large part on finding ways to provide more students with the opportunity to seek a quality higher education, Searle said.

“There is tremendous need in Arizona,” he said. “There are many more thousands of students graduating from high school in Arizona capable of going to college than are going to college. We need to get those students going to universities, and we need them to go to Arizona State.”

Those students need to learn from both the teaching and research faculty, requiring the university to increase the number and diversity of tenured and tenure track faculty.

“We need them to advance the intellectual product,” Searle said. “We need to have more research done, because we have opportunities and demand for the expansion of knowledge and discovery of knowledge.”

Searle said ASU must raise its student retention rate, the percentage of students who return for the next year of school. And while it’s graduation rate has more than doubled over the past two decades, the goal is to see 75 to 80 percent graduating by the year 2020

“The first and foremost measure of having successful students,” he said, “is keeping successful students.”

Searle arrived at ASU in 1995, when West Campus was in its nascent stages of development, and the vacated Williams Air Force Base only recently had been turned over to ASU, later to grow into the Poly Campus. ASU had only recently climbed into the first tier of research institutions.

Since then, enrollment has doubled and the university’s research enterprise has grown from around $100 million to nearly $450 million

Searle advanced through the ranks at ASU since joining the university as founding dean of the College of Human Services. He served as a faculty member and as provost of West campus, vice provost for academic affairs, vice president for academic personnel and deputy provost and chief of staff to the provost.

A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Searle’s early career centered around public service in parks and recreation planning and management, from running a “Summer in the City” day camp as an undergraduate student to serving as a senior policy analyst for the provincial Department of Recreation and Parks, in Alberta, following graduate school. Searle received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and political science from the University of Winnipeg and master’s in physical education from the University of North Dakota. He earned his doctorate in recreation administration from the University of Maryland.

He held a series of academic leadership positions with increasing responsibility at the University of Manitoba before moving to ASU.

Searle has served many organizations and governments in a variety of capacities over his career.  He has edited one journal, served as associate editor of four others, reviewed for national granting agencies, and served his local community through leadership roles on various boards of directors.

ASU will conduct a national search to fill the role of deputy provost and vice president for academic affairs.

When he started at ASU and would travel to academic conferences, his employer’s name drew limited attention, Searle said. Now other attendees are keen to learn more about ASU.

“They want to understand all the change, the experimentation, the speed of success — all of that coupled with an environment that’s producing research at a rate that’s phenomenal,” Searle said. “We can do things that most people don’t think they can do.”