WKU staff give suggestions to search committee

Elisabeth Moore

The Presidential Search Committee hosted an open forum for university staff on Friday to allow feedback on what they want in the next university president.

All members of the search committee were present except for Julie Hinson, who watched the forum from Louisville via videoconference. The videoconference was shown to other WKU regional campuses to allow their participation as well.

Committee chairman Phillip Bale began the forum by explaining the process of selecting the next university president. Bale said the committee had selected the firm Isaacson, Miller to assist in the search for presidential candidates.

“This is the second in a series of open forums that we are holding in order to gain stakeholder input into our process, which is just beginning,” Bale said. “The real purpose of this meeting is for us to listen. We have met with the faculty, and this meeting is intended for the staff. We do want your input.”

Bale gave a few suggestions of his own for presidential qualities during the forum.

“A university president needs to be an excellent manager,” Bale said. “They need to be a politician, fundraiser, scholar and visionary. Because of the recent budget cuts from Gov. Bevin, these items are key.”

The search committee then opened the floor to feedback from staff members. Andrea Cheney, assistant director at the Office of International Programs, said the new university president should try to narrow the focus of what WKU is as an institution.

“It is great to want to achieve a lot of different things, but when you stretch yourself so thinly, it becomes difficult to accomplish things and do them well,” Cheney said. “We need a president who can work with the faculty and staff here and that can help us craft a vision and stick to that vision, and it may need to be a narrower vision than what we have now.”

Sharon Hunter, the director of strategic enrollment management and retention support, said she would like to see more diversity in the presidential search.

“It makes a difference,” Hunter said. “I have listened to a lot of you for a number of years, and I just want you to know that [diversity] is important with, as what someone said earlier today, a ‘billion dollar business.’ It is important if we are going to be a global leader and if we are going to train the teachers who are going to influence the future of our commonwealth. We have to reflect the world we are expecting our students to thrive in.”

Stephanie Sieggreen, the director of international enrollment management, said the new university president should be someone who is well traveled and who is more open minded.

“I advise, coming from international enrollment management, that the new leader will be open minded and visionary,” Sieggreen said. “We need to be able to take risks and to have somebody that has a strong fist who can put it down and say ‘this is what we need to do’ to move forward and be more accountable for it.”

Lynette Breedlove, the director of Gatton Academy, agreed that the new university president should be a risk-taker while being open to diversity, ethnicity and age.

“I believe Gatton Academy represents one of those risks that Gary Ransdell has taken, and I think it has paid off well,” Breedlove said. “A big part of the reason it has been so successful is the warm community and atmosphere that is here at WKU. We really need a president that is open to continuing that community feel because I think that is one of the parts that our students feel very supportive of, and that is a big selling point for WKU.”

Bale said with the help of the new firm, the search committee hopes to name the next university president by March 1, 2017.

The Presidential Search Committee will host another open forum for faculty on April 27 at 4 p.m. in Snell Hall room 1108. A student open forum will be held on April 27 at 1 p.m. in Downing Student Union room 2005.