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Provost Search

Alan R. Townsend to Become CC’s Provost

Alan R. Townsend will become Colorado College’s provost and professor of environmental science on June 1.

Townsend currently is director of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and professor in the Environmental Studies program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He comes to Colorado College with a background of strong leadership, excellent strategic planning, successful fundraising, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion. He earned his B.A. in biology from Amherst College and his Ph.D. in biological sciences from Stanford University.

Townsend is an ecosystem ecologist who studies how ecosystems work, how they are changing, and what those changes might mean for society. His nationally prominent research includes work on nutrient cycling and biogeochemistry in tropical forests, and global-scale analyses of human impact on major element cycles. 

As the college’s initiatives have grown with the Fine Arts Center, Innovation, and the expanded library, it needs an experienced academic leader to guide and integrate these initiatives. Townsend is an inclusive leader, scholar, and champion of the liberal arts — qualities that will serve CC well.

As CC’s provost, Townsend will be the college’s chief academic officer and the college’s second-ranking officer with strategic responsibilities that span the entire institution. He will report to the president, serve on the president's cabinet, take a leadership role in the annual budget process, and implement the updated strategic plan.

Carol Neel, professor of history and co-chair of the search committee, says “Our new provost is a path-breaking scholar who also is a forceful and articulate public intellectual, a skilled administrator dedicated to empowering those around him, and a nuanced advocate of the liberal arts able to focus our collaboration in this central mission.”

At the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Townsend is responsible for the financial health, personnel management, and strategic decision-making for an institute with approximately 300 tenure-track faculty, soft-money research, staff and student positions, and formal links to seven academic departments across two colleges.

Townsend spent 17 years on the faculty at CU Boulder before becoming dean of the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment in 2014. He returned to CU Boulder early in 2017 as the associate vice chancellor for research, working to advance the university's $500 million research mission; Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research Fellow; and professor of Environmental Studies. Before his time at Duke, he served as director of the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation and the lead of CU Boulder’s efforts to secure the U.S. hub of Future Earth, now located in CU Boulder's Sustainability, Energy and Environment Community. Before that, he held various roles at CU Boulder, including director of the Environmental Studies program; professor and assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; and fellow and associate director at Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. He also co-directed the national Aldo Leopold Leadership Program.

Townsend's fellowships and awards include being an Ecological Society of America fellow; Google Science Communication Fellow; Aldo Leopold Leadership Program Fellow; CU Junior Faculty Development Award; NOAA Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellow; and NASA Global Change Graduate Fellow. 

He has published extensively, with more than 100 refereed publications, over 20,000 citations, and approximately $26 million in federal and foundation grant awards.

About the Provost Search Process

Colorado College invites nominations and applications for the newly created position of Provost.

Ranked among the top 25 National Liberal Arts Colleges by U.S. News and World Report, Colorado College enjoys an unequivocal mission: to provide the finest liberal arts education in the country. What makes Colorado College distinct is its inimitable combination of program, place, and people.

Colorado College is a unique institution in terms of geography and pedagogy. Set in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado College is the only selective liberal arts college in the region and enrolls just over 2,000 undergraduate students. Through 37 academic departments, faculty engage students directly and prepare them for leadership in the 21st century. The College’s signature academic program, the “Block Plan,” is an intensive academic schedule that allows students to immerse themselves in a single subject for three and a half weeks rather than balancing several courses over a semester. One example of the College’s innovative work is the integration with the world-renowned Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (now the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College), which has expanded arts programming and sparked new interdisciplinary learning opportunities. Students at Colorado College learn more than theoretical approaches; they learn to embrace the importance of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints and appreciate how diversity enriches their understanding of the world.

As the College’s chief academic officer, the Provost will report directly to the President and join an energetic community poised to implement an updated strategic plan. S/he will provide vision for and will implement Colorado College’s unparalleled and rigorous academic program. The Provost will also play a central role in faculty recruitment, promotion, and development and will work closely with senior leadership on College-wide administrative challenges and goals. The ideal candidate will: have a passion for and an ability to articulate the value of the liberal arts; qualify for tenure at the rank of full professor; demonstrate a commitment to innovative leadership; possess a track record of administrative accomplishments; and display an unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion.

For best consideration, please send all nominations and applications to:

Shelly Weiss Storbeck, Managing Partner
Anne Koellhoffer, Associate

« Click here to see the complete position prospectus »

Provost Search Campus Information Sessions – Cossitt Hall Lounge

Faculty sessions

  • Tuesday, September 26, 12:00 pm
  • Thursday, September 28, 3:00 pm
  • Tuesday, October 3, 3:00 pm
  • Thursday, October 5, 12:00 pm
  • Friday, October 6, 8:00 am (pre-tenured faculty)

Staff sessions

  • Wednesday, September 27, 12:00 pm
  • Wednesday, October 4, 3:00 pm

Open session

  • Monday, October 9, 3:00 pm

These discussions will take place in Cossitt Lounge. Among documents for consideration will be the current CC organization chart and proposed revision, as well as a listing of central elements in the provost job description under development by the search committee.

Noon sessions will be accompanied by light lunch and afternoon sessions by snacks. No reservations are requested because schedules may change and faculty/staff should feel free to come as they are able.  Each session will be facilitated by search group or FEC members, who will take notes and relay observations to the full committees.

Search Committee

For best consideration, please send all nominations and applications to:

Shelly Weiss Storbeck, Managing Partner
Anne Koellhoffer, Associate

For general questions about the search, email Lyrae Williams at