In an article published on the SMC website, the new Presidential Search committee was announced.
Image c/o Saint Mary's College
By Sarah Bagdon
American Journalism student
On October 23rd, Saint Mary’s announced their new Presidential Search Committee along with their Presidential Search website. This announcement has been yet another part of Saint Mary’s Transformation 2028 strategic plan. Brother David Caretti and David Perry, the two co-chairs of the committee say in their article on the Saint Mary’s website, “With the Transformation 2028 strategic plan and our Lasallian Core Principles acting as our guideposts, we are committed to working closely with members of the search committee, the Board of Trustees, our executive search firm, WittKieffer, and all members of the Saint Mary’s campus community to help find our next president.” According to Brother David, “Everyone on the search needs a holistic view of the college so they could see across departments.” He also explained, “The role of the committee is often mistaken, they do not directly hire the President, they are empowered to facilitate the search and to make sure that people are engaged. We wanted people who connected with multiple constituencies of the community.” However, there are many students who are unaware of what the President’s job is, like junior Lucy Bikhai who said, “I would love to know what the school president even does, I genuinely want to know what a person in this position does.”
Brother David said in an interview that when the committee was announced, there was a schoolwide email sent with a survey that would allow the committee to know what to look for in creating the Presidential Leadership Profiles for the candidates that are to be announced sometime within the next week. He explained, “There's been intentional engagement for people to be a part of this process.” In an interview with Provost Corey Cook, he told me, “Generally here, I think we do well when we listen to student voices. Our students are very direct, very wise, very kind…My experience is every time we invite students to give feedback, it’s helpful, constructive. I would say that every time students give input, that input is going to matter.” Most students are not aware of how impactful their voices are. Gavin Voskamp, a junior here at Saint Mary’s, explained, “On one hand I think it's great that they let students have a role in selecting or at least seeing which president is selected. I'm not sure how much of an active role we as the student body play but I think it is great that they are attempting to hear our feedback.” But according to both Brother David and Provost Cook, the students’ voices impact the school more than they know.
The biggest question that is posed through the release of this new search committee is what does everyone want to see out of the next Saint Mary’s president? There were a few members on the committee that were contacted but they had both declined going on the record, due to signing a non-disclosure agreement. However, several others had some thoughts on the matter.
Provost Cook said, “I work very closely with the president and I’m excited to see how it turns out. I want to find somebody who understands our mission. Somebody who can help build external relationships. External reputation of the college. A president who’s able to uncover the wonderful things our students do. Somebody who can talk about our students’ achievements and success. Talk to folks about what makes SMC special…A president excited to engage with students.” Voskamp said, “As a student I would love to see a president who is active and involved with student affairs, not just showing up to the basketball games. I mean I want them to really hear and listen to the students.” Bikhai had simply said, “I guess the biggest thing that I would want is some transparency.”
However, out of every interview, Professor Denise Witzig, a Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, had the most to say. Much like the Provost, she said, “We want somebody who is engaged in the community and who has a clear idea of who we are as a community.” She especially emphasized this idea of hiring a President who is engaged with the Saint Mary’s community. “I think there are a lot of directions in which we can go, but I do think the next President has to be a people person and get to know the students and the faculty and staff…You have to listen to people, there are a lot of good ideas here on campus that are not being listened to,” she said. Something else that she had emphasized was the fact that the President needs to ask themself, “What do we want to be known for in the future? It would be good to find someone who knows about that…You want someone who will take us in bold, new directions, who honors the culture of SMC.” The biggest thing to Professor Witzig is that, “The President has to represent the college in a lot of different constituencies…All of these are different and it's important for the president to understand that and to say that this is who we are…The president of the college is a big promoter of college interests, but they have to weigh those interests with the needs of the college…someone who wants to uplift the school.”
Weighing in all these issues is going to be very important for the search committee to consider when considering the candidates. As for the student body and faculty and staff, it will be important to welcome whoever is inaugurated on our campus grounds. Brother David said, “We’ve really appreciated the response of people across campus, we appreciate their interest. We know that whoever this next president is going to be, that it will be important for us to welcome them and to include them in our community just like we do everyone else and to help them feel like this is their home just like everybody else on this campus.”
Madison Sciba '24,