College hunts for president

By Jubenal Aguilar

A focus on sustainability issues and an understanding of technological advances are just two traits some say the new college president should have.
Staff, faculty and administrators gathered for a roundtable discussion April 25 in the Performance Hall to discuss the qualities, qualifications and skills they want Brookhaven College’s next president to have.
Their comments were collected and recorded to begin building the profile for the ideal candidate to take over as the college’s eighth president.
Thom Chesney, Brookhaven’s current president, will leave the college May 25 to take over as president of Clarke University, a four-year liberal arts college in Dubuque, Iowa.

Joe May, Dallas County Community College District chancellor, led the roundtable to take input from Brookhaven’s education and administrative groups. May said a consulting group will be hired to lead the nationwide search for Brookhaven’s new president.
“Today’s world is very different than when I assumed the presidency – well over 25 years ago – at a college, and lots of things have changed,” May said. At the time, there were different rules relating to open meetings and private recruiting.
May said it is tough to get a sitting president to apply for a job because widespread internet access and social media platforms make it easy for others to see he or she is looking for a new position. He said that when he applied for his first college presidency, there were over 200 applicants. Now, there are typically only 30-40 applicants for a college presidency, May said.
“We engage a consultant because we have to have a third-party, trusted entity that a candidate will trust to protect their identity as long as they can to keep them confidential,” he said.

According to the announced search timeline, advertising for the position will begin May 10. The chancellor said an interim president will be named later in May, before Chesney’s last day. The interim appointee will be from within DCCCD, though not necessarily from within Brookhaven.
A soft closing for the position is set for Aug. 23. May said he anticipates about 15 to 18 candidates will meet the basic criteria for the position and make it to this step. Those candidates will meet with the chancellor and some members of his leadership team.
After that, May said, three to four finalists will be selected and will visit Brookhaven.
“What I’m basically saying when that happens is that I can live with any of [them],” May said. Those candidates will be interviewed by a Brookhaven search committee at the college and will participate in open forums with students and the community.
May said the goal of the timeline is to announce a recommendation for Brookhaven’s next president at the October board of trustees meeting. However, the search may be extended, May said, because it is being conducted during the summer months.

May said the ideal candidate should meet a mix of universal qualities and expectations, as well as requirements unique to Brookhaven.
Carrie Schweitzer, director of sustainability, said Chesney initiated the Office of Sustainability five years ago. She said sustainability issues had not been likely to appear in a presidential search before now. Today, however, Brookhaven is a respected and relied upon partner in the North Texas sustainability and environmental communities, she said.
“I would say that our next college president must not only understand the scope and systemic relationship with sustainability issues, but must prioritize them,” Schweitzer said. “That leadership, I believe, is essential to this community as we prepare our students to live in a future where climate change is a reality and the impacts on society and economy are increasingly complex.”
Peggy Mason, a Brookhaven biology professor, said she feels college presidents have been increasingly occupied by network and community issues for the last several years. She said it is important the next president prioritize campus activities.
“The college presidents need to be more present on the campus,” Mason said. “More of a leader on the campus than they currently are.”
Paul Kozak, EMS instructional lab coordinator, said the community is an important focus for the president, but the campus should be a higher priority.