11/03/06 — Board gets input on college president search

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Board gets input on college president search

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 3, 2006 1:45 PM

Flexible, approachable, community-minded, with a heart for students and a vision for the future are just a few qualities the ideal candidate for Wayne Community College president should have, members of the community told college officials Thursday.

At a community focus group, about two dozen residents -- mostly college staff and board of trustees members -- discussed the search process to replace retiring WCC President Ed Wilson.

Dr. Parker Chesson Jr. of the executive search firm Gold Hill Associates presided over the hour-long session. He said the board of trustees had a big decision to make in hiring a new leader.

"The primary job is to develop what I call a presidential profile, qualifications you'll like," he said. "We'll also agree on a calendar, a timeline or at least a tentative timeline."

Chesson mentioned late January or early February as a target date to secure applications for the position, but suggested the board factor in as much flexibility as possible to select the best candidate.

"This process is more art than it is science," he said.

He told the audience that the board of trustees made it clear that the search will be an open process and nationwide in scope.

"This is a very serious decision for the college and the set of skills that your next president needs will be different than the set of skills when the last presidential selection was made in 1992," he said.

Trustee Keith Stewart, who will chair the search committee, invited staff members to offer their recommendations.

"The board has done a lot of talking in sessions but we haven't had a lot of input from non-board members," he said. "I really need to know what you (at the college) are thinking."

Ray Burrell, division head for business and computer technology, mentioned leadership direction.

"I would look for someone with a future vision ... able to interact and relate with students, faculty and staff and also at the community level as well," he said.

Roy White, vice president of continuing education and workforce preparedness, suggested the candidate be in tune with how to address new students as well as the new faculty.

He or she also "has to come fundamentally with the ability to attract money, attract dollars to the school, as well as link outwardly to a diverse community," White said.

Tracey Ivey, who directs the department of humanities, social science and fine arts, said she appreciated the notion that the college president would empower the staff and hoped the one chosen would move the college further along in the area of technology.

Gene Smith, math and science department chief, said he had been impressed with Wilson's approachability and willingness to listen to what the staff had to say.

"I would like to see that in the next president," he said. "I would also like to continue to be able to grow as an instructor by using new teaching techniques ... and to be able to continue to move into different technologies in the classroom."

Associate vice president for student services Yvonne Goodman said she had also heard from students that Wilson has been open and willing to listen to their concerns.

"We have a student representative on the board of trustees," she said. "From the students' standpoint, the students enjoy the opportunity to be a part of the administrative part of the college. (Wilson) also comes to the SGA meetings and has that connection to the students."

Stewart said in addition to staff and students, a good leader needs to be accessible to business and community leaders.

Wayne Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Office Bill Paugh said Wilson's community involvement was part of what made him a good leader.

"One of the things I have enjoyed with Dr. Wilson and I think is important is that he listens to community needs in terms of what skill sets might be needed (as far as future jobs in the community)," Paugh said.

He added that after hearing the needs, Wilson was then willing to institute new programs at the college to reflect them.

John Stiles, who said he was not a student or staff member at the college but is currently working on his doctorate, asked who was not at the public meeting who needed to be. He mentioned representatives from area high schools and the economic community could also be incorporated in the discussion and perhaps invited to attend a future meeting.

Debate also covered whether the next president should be required to have a doctorate. Those present also emphasized the need to garner financial support.

"Customarily in community colleges, presidents have a terminal degree -- PhD or EdD -- but not necessarily," Burrell said.

Chesson suggested there be some flexibility factored in when the advertisement is posted publicly for the position. It would be reasonable, he said, to word it that a master's degree is required and a doctorate preferred.

Trustee Tim Haithcock said in addition to academics and qualifications, a big issue in the future will be fundraising.

"I think our funding is going to be more and more static if you will, relative to the growth we're going to experience," he said. "It may be that even if we don't get into performance funding, just to have the extra funds to meet this community's needs and the community around us, the issue of funding is going to be important."

Board Chairman Tommy Cox said one thing they should all agree on is that the board has a monumental task before it.

"We're looking at a new era, a new time," he said. "With technology the way it is, we cannot even envision where we will be 10 years from now ... and what our students will be demanding from us. Hopefully at the end of this process we will select a president committed to take us into the future."