Presidential Search in the Home Stretch

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In the coming months, St. Mary’s will finally have a new captain at the helm.  Gail Harmon, the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search Committee, sent out an all-student e-mail on Feb. 19 which gave an overview of the ongoing search for a full-time president to take office after the departure of current interim president Ian Newbould next fall. According to the e-mail, Witt/Kieffer, the search firm responsible for advertising the position and generating SMCM’s presidential candidate pool, “received 85 formal applications for our presidency, compared to an average pool of 50-60 applicants for their other small college searches.”

Of these 85 applicants, 11 semi-finalists were interviewed by the Presidential Search Committee (comprised of trustees, faculty, students, and staff) off-campus on Feb. 26 and 27. Following these interviews, three final candidates, who were selected during these interviews, will come to campus on March 6, 11, and 13, at which time they will engage in meetings and conversations with students, faculty, and staff and in open sessions for all members of the St. Mary’s community. Harmon said in an interview on Sunday, March 2 that the names of the candidates will likely be announced on Monday, March 3.

After the on-campus visits, she said, the Board plans to conduct an online survey in which the campus community will be able to indicate their opinions and reactions to each candidate.  This survey will be a continuation of the Board’s gathering of student feedback on the presidential search process; students had the opportunity last semester to voice characteristics that they would like the president to have or policies that they would like the new president to address during open-meetings hosted by the Board and the search firm to discuss these issues.

Taylor Schafer, a junior and Student Trustee-in-Training, is a member of the Search Committee who has had a hand in narrowing down what qualities the Committee is looking for in a president.  “As a whole committee, we want someone with a fine academic background, a believer in the liberal arts, a strong sense of leadership, and success in fundraising–both from donors and through the state legislature,” she said. “We want someone who will know what questions to ask immediately upon arriving to campus in the summer in order to not only learn the community and culture, but also to understand our most prominent needs so they can be addressed.”

Harmon predicts that she will announce the Search Committee’s final presidential selection “certainly before the first of April,  and hopefully a lot earlier.” Schafer echoes Harmon’s confidence about the quality of the candidates for SMCM’s next president. “I’m very proud of the committee’s work and very excited to present our three finalists to the campus community,” she said. “I firmly believe the finalists are all excellent and viable candidates for the position.”

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