The search for Mississippi University for Women’s next president kicked into high gear this week, with second round of candidate interviews scheduled Thursday and an announcement of the preferred candidate’s name — if one is chosen — expected to come Thursday afternoon.
The College Board will meet tonight at 6 for a work session in Jackson. Thursday, at 8 a.m., the board will reconvene. Members of the Board Search Committee, Interview Search Advisory Committee and Campus Search Advisory Committee will meet at 10:15 a.m. to discuss the search.
The meeting is open to the public. A press conference will be held at 4:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the College Board’s website at mississippi.edu/ihl. MUW will air the broadcast live at the Nissan Auditorium, MUW Director of Public Affairs Anika Perkins said.
The preferred candidate, once chosen, will tour the MUW campus Nov. 30. Students, community members and other stakeholders will have the opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer session with him or her at that time.
The format will be similar to the Campus Listening Sessions, during which time various groups — including MUW administrators and department heads, faculty members, staff, alumni and students — were given the opportunity to discuss the qualities and qualifications they feel are most important in MUW’s next leader.
The search is being conducted by Parker Executive Search of Atlanta, in coordination with the College Board.
In the Nov. 12 edition of The Spectator, MUW’s student newspaper, editors expressed concern over the transparency of the search process, saying that “‘following’ the presidential search has been nearly impossible since day one.”
“The system they are using is unclear, the qualities they are looking for in candidates are vague and the names of the candidates themselves have not been released,” the editorial stated.
The editorial writers also expressed concern that the name of the candidate may not be released until “the day of the visit,” making it difficult for people to research the candidate well enough to “offer adequate feedback to the committees.”
“They must have misunderstood,” Caron Blanton, director of communication for the College Board, said Tuesday afternoon.
The board had originally planned to make the announcement next week specifically so students and stakeholders would have time to plan for the visit “and it wouldn’t be hitting them at the last minute,” she said, but the timeline was accelerated to make the announcement Thursday afternoon instead.
Blanton added that the board does not expect the timing of the visit, which follows the Thanksgiving holidays, to be an issue. Students are expected to be back in class Nov. 28.
Sue Jolly-Smith, chair of the Campus Search Advisory Committee and dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, said today she feels optimistic about the way the search process has been conducted, and she “regret(s) that feeling is there,” in regards to The Spectator’s editorial criticizing the transparency of the process.
The Campus Listening Sessions conducted in September were “very important in helping shape the understanding of the kind of person needed to lead this campus,” she said, adding that the student segment of the sessions was “key to what influenced the characteristics we were looking for” in a candidate. She said some of those qualities included “someone with a vision” and “someone who understands the uniqueness of the place.”
“It’s been our desire to be inclusive about any perspective about what folks are looking for,” Jolly-Smith said. “Certainly the level of confidentiality has been there more to protect the candidates and where they’re coming from than anything. There is a level of the work that has to take place behind closed doors because of that.”
Due to the depth and diversity of the various advisory committees, Jolly-Smith said she feels “very optimistic about our future as a result of this process.”
“While they may not have all been able to be at the table in the process, they’ve been represented and their interests have certainly been considered,” Jolly-Smith said. “… The person leading has the challenge of leading, but the followership has to support a leader if we’re going to move forward.”
The College Board hopes to name a new president by the new year.
The position has been filled by Interim President Allegra Brigham since May, following the retirement of then-President Claudia Limbert. Limbert had held the position since April 2002.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.