KU hires first full-time vice provost for research

Six and a half months ago, Steve Warren was given the temporary task of directing the newly combined office of research and graduate studies at Kansas University until a permanent leader could be found.

When he arrives at work this morning, the task will become permanent.

KU is expected to announce today that Warren will become the first full-time vice provost for research and graduate studies after a months long search and a review of 23 serious candidates. Warren will report directly to Provost Richard Lariviere.

“During his service at KU, Steve has shown great ability in managing major research operations, first at the Life Span Institute and then as interim vice provost,” Lariviere, who was traveling Wednesday, said in a statement provided to the Journal-World. “Steve has demonstrated a vision for where the university’s research efforts can go in the future and will provide the leadership needed to continue the outstanding progress we’ve already made.”

While serving as interim vice provost, Warren continued in his role as director of the Life Span Institute, one of the oldest research centers at KU.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity,” Warren said. “I think what (taking on the vice provost job full time) allows you to do is move forward in the kind of strategic ways that sets a direction over several years and makes a real impact.”

As the chief executive officer of the KU Center for Research and leader of other graduate operations, Warren will be responsible for a budget of nearly $50 million.

“This is a pretty powerful position,” Lariviere said. “It has a stout budget and a huge responsibility.”

Lariviere said in choosing a candidate, he was looking for someone who understands the way research fits into the broader picture of the university, who could manage research dollars at a time when federal funding is dwindling and who has an exemplary record of research in his own right.

Warren said he’s had nearly 40 research grants of his own, and having been the director of the Life Span Institute, which is almost entirely funded by external sources, he knows well the other challenges that he will face.

“These jobs, as people have really realized the role of research in universities, have become similarly complex,” Warren said. “You interact with the business community, the economic development folks and researchers who are doing increasingly complex research.”

Lariviere said his goals for the combined office that Warren will lead include growth in certain graduate programs, more federal funding for research and a more efficient degree process for doctoral candidates.

Perhaps more than any other candidate, Warren is uniquely suited to decrease the amount of time it takes to earn a graduate degree.

Warren earned three degrees from KU, including two bachelor degrees in 1974. He picked up a doctorate in child and developmental psychology just three years later.

“There’s no reason for any department to take 10 years to bring someone to a Ph.D.,” Warren said. “I think we can absolutely reduce that time to degree, and we should.”

Because of Warren’s promotion, KU will now be looking for a new director of the Life Span Institute. Warren said he would take an active role in identifying his successor.

“Being the director of the Life Span Institute is the very best job I’ve ever had,” he said. “Part of that is the people I’ve worked with, who are just first rate, and part of it is I truly believe in the mission it has. Being able to influence the choice of my successor pleases me.”