James Coleman, dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been selected as the university’s next provost, President Rita Cheng announced.

“Jim’s broad background crosses multiple disciplines and his research focus makes him an excellent fit for provost. Perhaps more important, he shares our passion for transforming the lives of our students and meeting critical workforce needs for this state,” Cheng said.

Pending approval by the Arizona Board of Regents, Coleman will serve as NAU’s highest-ranking academic officer, working with the faculty to achieve the university’s mission and goals, including student success, educational access, excellence in education and integrity.

Coleman will replace Laura Huenneke, who said she looks forward to doing research again as a biological sciences faculty member. Huenneke has been provost since 2012 and previously served as NAU’s vice president for Research.

Coleman has worked as dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University since 2011, where he also was a biology professor. He served as vice provost and professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Rice University, vice chancellor for Research and Biology professor at the University of Missouri and vice president for Research and Business Development at Desert Research Institute in Reno.

“I am so thrilled to join President Cheng and the amazing faculty, staff and students at NAU to help facilitate the continued success of NAU’s academic programs,” Coleman said. “NAU is a university that truly matters to its students and community. I feel so honored that I will get to be a part of NAU’s future.”

Coleman earned an undergraduate forestry degree from the University of Maine and a master’s and a Ph.D. from Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

As dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University, Coleman worked with 400 full-time and 200 part-time faculty members.

“NAU seems to be an institution that is a perfect fit to the passion I have for the role of higher education in society,” Coleman said. “I see higher education as a transformational force that opens up opportunities for students in ways that they might have never imagined, and engages with communities through research and outreach.”

Coleman said he also was interested in becoming provost at NAU because of the faculty’s commitment to engaging and mentoring students. “I hope to help shape NAU’s academic mission and programs, and to facilitate the continued growth of the institution’s reputation as an exemplary university,” Coleman said.

Coleman’s experience includes building community-engaged research, international partnerships and articulation agreements with community colleges.

“The combination of skills and experiences that Jim brings to the table ensures NAU will maintain a high quality education environment while solidifying relationships with new and existing partners,” Cheng said. “He will be a great asset to the university and to this community.”

Coleman will start as provost in mid-August after he and his wife, Adele, move to Flagstaff.