SOU’s presidential search committee prepares to announce final pick

ASHLAND, Ore.- All 5 of SOU’s presidential candidate finalists have visited the Rogue Valley in recent weeks, so now it’s time for the university to make a decision. Its selection committee is meeting Tuesday and plans to make its choice.

“It will be a tough decision for the board but nonetheless we stand ready to have a successful search completed here in the next week or two,” explained Trustee David Santos, chair of the search committee. The search comes after President Linda Schott announced she was retiring at the end of the year.

“A hundred applications nationwide, a diverse applicant pool, and the search committee selected 12 people for additional interviews,” Santos explained. After September interviews, the 12 applicants got cut down to five finalists. Each visited the university in recent weeks, holding open forums and answering questions with SOU staff and students as part of the university’s open search goals.

“The community would know who these candidates are, would have an opportunity to provide input on it, know we are deliberating on this, and know these candidates before any announcement was made,” said Santos. Santos says all five benefited from the visits as well.

“For them to see our constituencies and jointly, we could make a decision.”

The first finalist to visit was Chris Gilmer, president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg and a frequent faculty member within the HBCU system. He compared the close-knit community of Ashland and SOU to his own experience at WVUP.

The second was Brock Tessman, who currently serves as deputy commissioner of higher education for the 16 campuses that make up the Montana University System. He emphasized the “Montana Ten Initiative” saying the program could be used at SOU to make education more equitable.

“What if we provided a textbook stipend to students so we don’t see our lower-income students not buying a book and then dropping out,” Tessman said at his forum.

Dr. Curtis Bridgeman visited the campus as well. He is the Roderick and Carol Wendt professor of business law at the Willamette University College of Law in Salem, where he has taught since 2013.

“Being in the community so it’s not an abstract debate that we’re having about the value of education but it’s about the experience with the person,” Dr. Bridgeman said at his Q&A.

The fourth candidate was Dr. Junius Gonzales. He currently serves as provost and vice president for academic affairs at the New York Institute of Technology. He emphasized strong communication between faculty, students, and the community.

The fifth and final visit was from Dr. Rick Bailey, the current president of Northern New Mexico College.

“The key is to engage in dialogues where they are uncomfortable. We need to hear stories like that to change the way we institutionalize our commitment to equity,” he said during an open forum.

SOU will announce its top pick after the committee’s meeting tomorrow, and will then begin contract negotiations.

You can visit SOU’s Presidential Search website for more information on each candidate.

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