John McCarthy to Complete Service as Provost in June

In an email to the campus community on Thursday, Jan. 20, John McCarthy, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, announced he will end his service as provost at the end of June. He also shared some of the highlights from his time as provost.

John J. McCarthy
John McCarthy

That message is as follows:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

At the end of this semester, I will have completed five years as Provost and a total of 10 years in upper academic administration. I was appointed Provost for a term of five years, and I have decided not to seek reappointment. My term will end on June 30, 2022. The Chancellor will endeavor to name a new provost as soon as possible, and I will work closely with that person to facilitate as smooth a transition as possible.

In my years as Provost and as Graduate Dean before that, I have tried always to be guided by my moral compass, particularly by the belief that we are called as educators to help all of the members of our university community to realize their full human potential. I have tried, as well as I am able, to lead in a spirt of kindness, empathy, and transparency. Before moving into administration, I was very successful in my scholarship, and I have done what I can to support and honor others’ successes. I brought to the role of Provost a long career as a member of the UMass Amherst faculty, and I kept that in mind as I dealt with the challenges that have faced us, especially during the last 22 months. I have not always been able to live up to my ideals, but you can be sure that I am my own harshest critic.

Here are a some of our collective achievements during my time as Provost:


  • Instruction. In the 2020-2021 academic year, we provided our students with nearly three quarters of a million student credit hours of instruction. Despite the many challenges posed by the pandemic, this number is only one-tenth of one percent less than in the previous year, and it is 2.5% more than the year before that. It took the efforts of the entire campus, both staff and faculty, to pull this off. I am supremely grateful to every one of for what you did to provide our students with as normal an experience as possible under the circumstances.
  • Performance. Despite the pandemic, our students have continued to perform superbly on key metrics: the first-to-second year retention rate for the cohort entering in Fall 2020 is 91%, the same as pre-pandemic. the most recent 4-year graduation rate is 76%, down only one point from the pre-pandemic peak.  The 6-year graduation rate is 84%, continuing a multi-year trend of improvement.
  • Academic Programs. In my time as Provost, we have launched degree programs in Biomedical Engineering, Veterinary Technology, Public Policy, Finance, Informatics, Data Analytics & Computational Social Science, Materials Science & Engineering, Managerial Economics, and Interdisciplinary Studies. 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

  • Students. The Fall 2021 entering class is the most diverse ever: 37% are ALANA (African American/Black, Latinx, Asian, Hawai’ian/Pacific Islander, and Native American), and 19% are from historically underrepresented groups (African American/Black, Latinx, Hawai’ian/Pacific Islander, and Native American). (These percentages and those cited in the next bullet were calculated using the standard methodology, which excludes non-US nationals from the denominator.)
  • Faculty. Over the past four academic years, 22.1% of the newly hired tenure-system faculty are from those same historically underrepresented groups. In the previous four years, the fraction was only 5.9%. As a result of this hiring record and aggressive, creative efforts at retention, the number of tenure-system faculty from the historically underrepresented groups has increased from 95 to 110 over the same period.
  • Deans. Three of the deans entered their positions at the same time when I became Provost and the other nine were recruited by me, so it can be said that I on-boarded all the current deans. The deanery is now more diverse in gender and race/ethnicity than it has ever been: ten of the twelve deans are women and five are persons of color.


  • Pandemic accommodations. Through an unprecedented collaboration among Academic Personnel, the Office of Faculty Development, the MSP, and the ADVANCE grant, our campus put into place policies and practices that have made us a national model of support for faculty during the pandemic.
  • Support for remote instruction. An equally unprecedented collaboration among the Center for Teaching & Learning, the Instructional Design, Engagement, & Support (IDEAS) group, the Libraries, and IT supported faculty throughout the transition to remote instruction and beyond.
  • Innovations in faculty support.
    - A more expansive view of the criteria for promotion to full professor.
    - A careful analysis of data from the COACHE survey of faculty job satisfaction.
    - Nominations of faculty for honorific awards.
    - Professional improvement leaves for lecturers (negotiated with MSP).
    - Reinstitution of the spouse/partner hiring program under a sustainable budget model.
    - Creation of the offices of Faculty Development and the Associate Provost for Equity & Inclusion
    - Leadership development through the selection of Chancellor’s Leadership Fellows and participants in the HERS Institutes. 

Other units in Academic Affairs

  • IPO. Our International Programs Office very ably supported our international students, faculty, and staff throughout the years of nativist policies and edicts coming from Washington
  • FAC. Even as our faculty and staff pivoted to remote work, the Fine Arts Center deftly pivoted to virtual events that helped bolster our spirits during a very difficult time, starting with a virtual dance party hosted by Questlove on May 7, 2020.
  • UWW. The former Division of Continuing & Professional Education became the University Without Walls, reporting directly to the Provost.
  • Academic labor relations. My office has responsibility for contract bargaining and administration with three unions, representing faculty, graduate assistants, and post-doctoral researchers. In my time as Provost, we have negotiated two contracts with MSP – a regular three-year contract running through June 2020 and a one-year extension running through June 2021 --- and we continue at the bargaining table working toward a successor contract. We negotiated a successor contract with the postdoc union PRO-UAW running through March 2022, and we are back at the table with GEO-UAW negotiating their successor contract.

Later in the semester, I plan to send a message thanking by name the many contributors to the achievements listed above. I also hope to update you on my plans, which are as yet unformed. You cannot work at a place for more than half your life without being changed by it, so whatever happens next, I will always have a big piece of this University with me.

Thank you,

John McCarthy
Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Distinguished University Professor