A presidential search update released last Friday reported a high interest in the position by professionals outside of higher education. While some on campus, including Dean Steven Brown, said they were closely watching the situation, none said there was any cause for alarm – yet.
But Deryl Wynn, chair of the search committee, said nothing was off the table and the committee does not want to rule out any candidates just because they might not have experience in higher education.
“If Gen. Colin Powell tells me he wants to be the president of Emporia State University, I’m not going to tell him he’s not qualified,” Wynn said.
Still, some say that the next president needs to have experience in higher education.
“For my own part, I would always rather find someone who has a little broader experience,” said Steven Brown, outgoing dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His last day is Friday. “These are difficult times. There are challenges we haven’t faced before… I’d be more comfortable if you had someone who had quite a bit of experience in the profession.”
In an email sent to LAS faculty, Brown said he is “slightly concerned” with references in the update to applicants from outside of higher education.
“I concur with statements several of you have made in conversations through the past few weeks, suggesting that the best possible outcome will be found if we locate an individual with considerable experience in higher education,” Brown said in the email.
Brown said he does not believe there is currently a high possibility for a president with no experience in higher education to be appointed, but he does urge faculty and students to “keep an eye on” the situation.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to focus on those who are outside of higher education that have submitted applications,” Wynn said, “because they’ve not been selected – they have been encouraged to submit, and I’m not sure that they are the best qualified. I don’t want anybody jumping to conclusions.”
Currently, the Kansas Board of Regents plans to appoint a new president by January or February 2012, according to Wynn.
“That sure seems awfully ambitious to me,” Brown said. “If they can pull that off, that’s wonderful – I think that’d be great… I’ll be impressed if they pull it off.”
Brown said from his own experiences, searches like this do not generally move as quickly as ESU’s search hopes to progress, but Wynn said he was confident that the search committee would not need to extend the timeline.
Brown said the primary role of any higher education institution is teaching students, but there are additional responsibilities like interacting with the community. Above all else, Brown said the university president must be able to comprehend the various facets of higher education.
“I’m not saying you can’t find someone outside of education who has those understandings,” Brown said. “It just seems like it would be more likely with someone who has experience in education.”
Steve Catt, professor and chair of the communication and theater department and subcommittee chair for the presidential search committee, said he is not concerned with how the search is progressing.
“Anyone who has a concern with what might happen, I think that’s just anxiety talking,” Catt said. “There’s nothing going on that’s led to any type of concern over what type of person will be hired.”
Catt said the search committee has been directed to refer all media calls to Vanessa Lamoreaux, associate director of communications for KBOR. The Bulletin was unable to contact Lamoreaux by press time on Wednesday.
“At the end of the day, I think we all want to pick someone that’s going to move the university forward,” Wynn said.