Faculty and staff representatives on Presidential Search Committee pursue community input on candidate traits, emphasize longevity and experience

By Emma Reilly

Elm Staff Writer

Finding the right candidate to serve as Washington College’s 31st president is a difficult task that WC faculty and senior staff are eager to undertake, according to Vice President for Advancement, Alumni, and Constituent Engagement Susie Chase ’90. 

“I think that this is just a very important decision…and such an exciting time for WC, so I’m thrilled to be involved in the search in which we can really search for a transformational leader to take us to the next place,” Chase said.

The 17-member Presidential Search Committee — consisting of students, staff, and faculty – is looking for input from the College community as they begin their inquiry into the next president of the College. 

“My hope would be that we as a search committee can establish a process that has that kind of communication and transparency and participation in it, I think that’s really key to our success,” Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Sarah Clarke-De Reza said.

The committee will organize focus groups for WC students, alumni, staff, faculty, and parents to gather their input, according to Chase. 

Community feedback regarding what the College needs in a president will play a significant role in informing the committee’s search as the group strives to involve and engage all constituent groups.

On March 10, the faculty representatives to the committee hosted a virtual faculty coffee hour. 

Faculty members were encouraged to ask questions about the presidential search process and to share their perspective on what the next leader of the College should look like, according to Associate Professor of English and Director of the Gender Studies Program Dr. Elizabeth O’Connor.

There is general consensus amongst the constituent feedback gathered so far.

WC faculty and staff have indicated that they are hoping for a president with a background in academia and higher education, who is dedicated to staying with the College, and who takes interest in the College’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.

“We would like someone that’s actually going to stay for a while and who will help build the longevity of our senior staff, because this turnover is not great for anybody,” Associate Professor of Computer Science and Chair of Math and Computer Science Dr. Shaun Ramsey said. “We want to get somebody who’s going to get here and make it home.”

The Presidential Search Committee will continue gathering feedback from the College’s constituents as the search process unfolds, including through an anonymous Google form where faculty can submit a list of qualities they hope to see in WC’s next president, according to Dr. Clarke-De Reza.

As they move forward with this search, the community’s input will remain a valuable asset to the Presidential Search Committee.

The committee is currently in the process of submitting Requests for Proposals to firms which will assist in the search process. These RFPs will communicate to firms what the College is hoping to accomplish through this search and what qualities potential presidents should have.

According to Dr. Ramsey, the firm chosen by the committee will consolidate community feedback and assist the committee in recruiting and interviewing presidential candidates.

The presidential search may be a long one, but the committee is dedicated to finding the perfect president for WC, according to Chase.

“While we’re hopeful that we can find that person quickly, what’s more important is that we spend the time and do the due diligence to find the right candidate…that’s truly what our constituents are looking for,” Chase said.

Featured Photo caption: With the announcement of Interim President of the College Dr. Wayne Powell’s impending departure, a new Presidential Search Committee was formed. The group is in the process of surveying characteristics of an ideal presidential candidate from the campus community. Elm File Photo.

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