The University of Arizona has done an about-face in its search for a new provost by allowing its temporary provost to seek the position permanently.

Andrew Comrie, appointed to the job six months ago on an interim basis, was supposed to be an adviser - not a contender -in the university's nationwide provost search. But the school announced Monday he's now one of three finalists.

The other two are Henry Foley, vice president for research and graduate school dean at Pennsylvania State University, and Jack Knott, dean of the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California.

Each candidate will meet with the campus community before a final selection is made.

Those sessions, which are open to the public, start today with Comrie's, followed by the others next week.

Allowing interim executives to seek their jobs permanently often is counterproductive because it tends to discourage outside hopefuls from applying, search experts say.

"Most colleges and universities will not permit an interim to be a candidate because it causes problems in the recruitment process," Jan Greenwood, the Florida-based consultant who recruited new UA President Ann Weaver Hart, told the Arizona Daily Star in an interview last year.

"One of the first things (executive job seekers) ask is 'Is the interim a candi- date?' " Greenwood said. "And if the answer is 'Yes,' most of the time they will not proceed."

The UA used to bar interim executives from seeking permanent jobs, but Hart lifted the restriction last fall in response to feedback from the campus community, UA spokeswoman Jennifer Fitzenberger said in an email Monday.

Candidates for provost were made aware of the change, and many high-quality hopefuls still applied, Fitzenberger said. The UA's search committee screened more than 40 applicants and interviewed 10 before choosing the three finalists, she said.

Comrie, who makes $300,000 a year as interim provost, served earlier as dean of the UA's Graduate College and associate vice president for research .

The provost search is expected to cost about $65,000 for consulting fees, plus expenses.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at or at 573-4138.

If you go

Finalists for the job of University of Arizona provost will meet with the campus community and the public today and next week in the Rincon Room of the Student Union Memorial Center.

• Today - Andrew Comrie, 9:30 to 11 a.m.

• Jan. 14 - Henry Foley, 3:30 to 5 p.m.

• Jan. 17 - Jack Knott, 9:30 to 11 a.m.