Michael Howard began his position as the executive vice president of Tufts on July 1, according to TuftsNow. Howard previously served as the executive vice president for finance and administration at Smith College as well as vice president of finance at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Howard replaced Patricia Campbell, who had worked at Tufts since 1996 and held the position of executive vice president since 2007. Campbell retired from the position on March 1 and is currently serving as the chancellor of the University of Rwanda, an honorary position, according to TuftsNow.
According to Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences James Glaser, the position is crucial to the function of the school but often difficult for students to see. Glaser chaired the committee responsible for nominating a replacement for Campbell.
“[The vice president] is the person who’s responsible for managing the financial and operational affairs of the university, so it’s a really critical role. We were looking for somebody who had … management experience, financial experience, and who could step into this complicated position in a complex organization,” he said.
Glaser added that the search committee built off of Campbell’s example while looking for an individual with unique strengths.
“Patricia Campbell … was very effective and an excellent person, and so filling those shoes was our objective. We recognized we wouldn’t be able to fill those shoes with a clone of Patricia, that’s just impossible, but we were looking for somebody who would bring their own strengths and background to the position, and a new set of eyes … and help advance the university,” Glaser said.
While at Tufts, Campbell played a role in launching the TEAM (Tufts Effectiveness in Administrative Management) initiative. In an email to the Daily, Campbell explained that TEAM helped expand IT support to a 24/7 service and allowed the university to save money by “consolidating some services and improving purchasing.”
Glaser said there were dozens of applications for the position, but the committee used a search firm, so they interviewed “only the most plausible candidates.” About a dozen of the applicants were given initial interviews, according to Glaser. Afterward, the top candidates were invited to campus where they participated in several rounds of interviews before University President Anthony Monaco suggested who should be hired.
According to Glaser, the committee felt Howard was highly qualified for the job.
“The fact that he had leadership experience at both a very large complicated research university like MIT and also at a small liberal arts college like Smith College meant that he had perspective that came from multiple places and multiple experiences, and that was very attractive to us,” Glaser said.
Howard said in an email to the Daily that Tufts’ status as a top research university and its focus on students first drew him to Tufts.
“[Tufts] has very strong undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs and attracts the best students and faculty from around the world. I also wanted to be part of a student-centered research university,” Howard said. “It’s challenging and exciting to be part of an institution at the leading edge of research across a wide array of fields and that gives students the opportunity to play such important roles in that research.”
Howard is already involved in some of the new initiatives the university has underway, including programming and infrastructure.
Following Tufts Dining workers’ unionization in the spring of 2018 and their ratification of their first contract nearly a year later, Howard says he looks forward to building relationships with both UNITE HERE Local 26 and the various labor organizations on campus.
“The university has a number of unions on campus and prides itself on the relationships it has and continues to cultivate with each one,” he said. “Our dining staff play a critical role here at Tufts, and we respect the work they do. They interact daily with students, faculty, and staff, and they play a critical role in our wellbeing and sense of community.”
“President Monaco has made it clear that he takes very seriously the concerns raised about the university’s relationships with members of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma. We are the only institution of which we are aware that has taken the step of authorizing an independent, unbiased review of these issues,” he said. “That review is ongoing, and we’re looking forward to its completion so that any actions we take in response are fully informed.”
In a similar vein, Howard noted that Tufts is currently reviewing its relationship with Saudi Arabia.
“I understand that we have intensified our review of any potential future donations from Saudi sources in light of our continued concerns over oppression and human rights violations in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Tufts has received $59.5 million from the Saudi government and Saudi institutions within the last decade.
Howard also addressed potential tuition increases. Campbell acknowledged that Tufts, like other universities, “is faced with the challenge of affordability while maintaining quality.” Campbell said that Howard and the senior leadership team will be working to create programs “that meet contemporary needs in accessible and affordable ways that do not undermine the quality of scholarship at Tufts.”
“We intently focused on controlling costs and have taken many steps to do so, and we are working to increase revenues through increased enrollment in pre-college, adult learning and other programs,” Howard said. “I’m committed to working with the deans and others to minimize tuition increases and communicate clearly about the factors that we take into account when setting tuition.”
For now, Howard is excited for the start of the new academic year.
“I’m looking forward to meeting students and faculty, and getting a better sense for academic life at Tufts,” he said. “I’m also a big sports fan, so I’m looking forward to the start of the fall season. I’ll be attending a lot of women’s and men’s athletic events throughout the year.”