As President Dr. J. Thomas Isherwood prepares to retire after thirteen years of presidency, the search begins for a new president at Reinhardt University.
According to Dr. Isherwood, this will be a national search.
“[AGB] has contacts with people all across the United States. This will be a national search and there will be applicants from all over the U.S. There’s a search committee of about nineteen people—three faculty, three staff, one student, six or seven board members and three or four from the community,” he said.
In correlation with the outside search party AGB, (Association of Governing Boards), presidential search consultant Dr. Jim Davis met with both students and faculty members, trustees and alumni, to discern what qualities the Reinhardt community are looking for in a new president and what subjects are of concern. An open forum was also conducted for anyone wishing to share comments.
“You can make a difference in who gets chosen for the next president of Reinhardt University,” Davis said.
Students, in a designated meeting with Dr. Davis, expressed desire for an involved leader who puts emphasis on availability, on campus presence, and transparency. Students said that the new president should contribute to the “family” feel of Reinhardt.
“People come to Reinhardt instead of UGA and all these other places because they want a family. I think that our whole campus could have that if the president would open his house to people and come to events,” said Resident Advisor Isabella Novaes.
Students also expressed concern over budgeting for student organizations and suggested that a new president may fundraise more actively. Davis found potential issue in this request, as a fundraising president is more likely to be out and thus may be unable to contribute a present figure on campus.
When students had addressed the bulk of their concerns, Davis had a few questions for them to answer. He put it to the students to notify him if they believed that Reinhardt would be accepting of a multiracial president, a female president, or a homosexual president. Opinions varied among student leaders.
“If we had a woman, she’d probably be off to a rocky start, but I think she’d do fine. She’d be accepted by the students without issue,” said SGA President Alexander Bryant.
“Everyone loves JoEllen Wilson and many of our faculty members are female,” added SGA Parliamentarian Steven Vosika.
Davis stated that thirty percent or more of applicants will likely be female.
He later asked if race is considered an issue or a non-issue on campus. Resident Advisor and Reinhardt Captain Valencia Washington commented, “I feel that it’s okay. You’ll find—and a lot of people do—that people still get stereotyped, and that’s everywhere. People do get judged based on their looks rather than their personality and I do feel that we could do a bit better showing more diversity.”
Davis asked, “Do you think a non-white person is ready to be president of this college in this particular time and atmosphere?”
Washington said, “Once again, yes and no. Kind of with the woman thing, I feel that a lot of people would be on board for it and a lot of people would be very hesitant.”
Davis then posed what he called an even tougher question; “Would this campus consider a gay person in a leadership role?”
Bryant responded, “Probably not.”
Washington added, “No.”
Vosika elaborated, “It’s a lot more open on the student side. It’s becoming more accepted on campus, but again it’s a community thing too. Reinhardt might accept them, but Waleska might not.”
According to Davis, this is an important piece of information to know because, of the fifteen presidential searches he has completed in the last six years, many of the presidents chosen have been women, people of multiracial ethnicities, and of homosexual orientation.
Presidential search committee members are looking to complete the search in early February of 2015, with recruiting, screening, and interviewing taking place prior to such date, said Executive Secretary to the Presidential Search Committee Kelly Morris. According to her, the next step in the search process is to create a profile for the position and to place an advertisement in hiring publications.
According to Isherwood, the current plan is for the chosen president to start on July 1, 2015.
He said, ”They hope to announce the new president in February because we have two vice presidents who are leaving the university. The hope is that we’d have the finalists for those positions so the new president can talk to the finalists and the finalists could see who they would work for. They could be in communication.”
Davis encourages input from the Reinhardt community and wishes to hear any comments or concerns from parties who were unable to attend the open forum. Anyone wishing to speak to him may contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on the search for the new president will be made available as progression continues.