Classroom experience key in Northwest presidential search

·3 min read

Aug. 5—The leader of the representative body for all Northwest Missouri State University instructors said the group has found it a high priority that a campus president has experience teaching college students.

Professor Peter Adam of the Department of Natural Sciences, who serves as president of the Faculty Senate while teaching biology, reflected Thursday on the nature of a search for John Jasinski's permanent successor. He has been appointed along with 10 others to the Search Committee and will help define criteria for the process before a candidate prospectus is published on Sept. 8.

Adam's co-nominees are Allison Atkinson, Rod Barr, Leisha Barry, Tyrone Bates, Selena Foreman, Carl Hughes, Dannen Merrill, Elizabeth Motazedi, Gina Smith and Matt Walker, who are each delegates from a core NWMSU constituency group. Motazedi, for example, is president of Student Senate.

"It's important for faculty to have a voice just to make sure that we hire somebody that has good experience with academics, good experience in the classroom," Adam said. "And, sort of knows what happens at ground zero where the faculty interact with students."

The university president on a given campus is the chief executive ultimately responsible for direction of the campus but delegates much of the day-to-day running of things, while serving as the "face" of the institution. Most of the president's time is spent out in public conducting ceremonies, interacting with students and staff, meeting with alumni, public officials and donors, and traveling to places where the university wishes to make an impact. Thus there can be a temptation to appoint a well-known public figure, who has not previously worked in the higher education classroom.

Bearcat faculty would prefer to be led by someone who knows their line of work.

"I actually did a survey with our Faculty Senate as well as with our administrators," Adam said. "The top priority most of them list is that we do get somebody who has teaching experience. When you look at other universities with presidents that don't have that teaching perspective, quite often they start to run the university as a business. Which, it is a business, but not in the 'supply and demand' sense. This place is for the students."

Chairman John Moore defined the next steps at a meeting where Moore's Board of Regents signed off on the appointments to the Search Committee. Moore also serves as Search Committee Chair, alongside several regents, representing how the board — which is appointed by Missouri's governor — has the final say on the presidency.

In the wake of Jasinski's June 30 departure and no shortage of controversy, Moore said he has heard frequent public demands that the succession process take place with transparency. This will be honored as much as possible, he said. An initial series of interviews with applicants must happen in Search Committee closed session, so that people can feel comfortable putting their name in without informing their current employer.

"When they get to the finalist stage, if they get there, that disclosure comes with the territory," Moore said at Thursday's meeting. "But I have consistently heard that if we do not do it that way (initial closed sessions), we won't get the kind of candidates we need to apply."

Northwest stakeholders will know from the Sept. 8 prospectus what precise benchmarks must be met by would-be candidates. Search firm Anthem Executive of Houston, Texas, hired by the Board of Regents in July, will promote the prospectus, communicate with applicants, and direct them into the initial talks. Public Search Committee sessions shall follow.

Marcus Clem can be reached at marcus.clem@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowClem