Christine Riordan, dean of the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver and a candidate for provost at the University of Kentucky, has studied management and leadership for nearly her entire career.
So when asked what her greatest successes at Denver were, her answer was in line with that work: "I have to say the one thing that I'm most proud of, in terms of the transformation there, is we really transformed the culture, and transformed it into one of openness, transparency, high levels of communication, collaboration, and I will say the faculty and staff and student morale is probably at an all-time high because of that."
That transformation earned high rankings from U.S. News and World Report, and helped her increase the college's endowment from $70 million to $106 million in five years.
The change is also what attracted Riordan, 48, to the UK job, calling UK a school with a "spectacular array of resources" that is ready to become a thought leader in the future of higher education.
Riordan said that although she is now working at a private school, her first job was at another large public school, the University of Georgia.
"I do have a very strong passion for state universities, and I would very much enjoy ending my career at a large state school, where I started out," she said. The provost is UK's top academic officer.
Riordan received an undergraduate degree in material sciences engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a doctorate in organizational behavior from Georgia State University. She started her career as a professor at the Terry College of Management at the University of Georgia, then went to the Neely School of Business at Texas Christian University as an associate dean.
Riordan also has a private consulting business in executive leadership, although she said she doesn't have much time for work outside of being dean. She said she recently coached executives from a major firm but asked that any fee be given to building projects at the Daniels school.
While provosts are not traditionally fundraisers, the need for private money at financially strapped schools is changing that role. At Denver, Riordan started the Daniels Corporate Partners program to encourage corporations to give, and she said that if she were hired at UK, "I'd like to work with deans to identify giving opportunities."
Riordan was the third and final candidate to appear in campus forums this week. Jose Luis Bermudez, dean of liberal arts at Texas A&M University, spoke on Tuesday, and Nancy Brickhouse, interim provost at the University of Delaware, spoke on Wednesday.
Their messages were similar, said history professor James Albisetti, as UK is suffering from many of the same woes faced by schools nationwide: lack of funding, student debt, technological change. "I think she seems well aware of the problems we face," he said. "I could live with any of them. They were very even."
Former UK Provost Kumble Subbaswamy left last year to become chancellor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
UK officials have said President Eli Capilouto hopes to make a decision by May.