January 12, 2011

Presidential search to incorporate student voice

The search for Knox’s next president is moving forward and students have the opportunity to play a greater role in the final phase of the selection process.

Three candidates remain, chosen from a group of eight semifinalists during interviews in Chicago on Jan. 5 and 6.

“All eight [semifinalists] were very impressive and had the qualities we were looking for,” said Richard Riddell, ’72, trustee and chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “But these three…any of them could be president.”

In late January, the candidates will be invited to Knox to meet with students, staff and faculty in Q&A-style sessions. At the conclusion of the visits, the search committee will recommend one or more candidates to the Board of Trustees for the position of president. The board has the final word on the presidential appointment.

Student involvement will be crucial to this stage of the selection process, Riddell said.

“We want feedback, but we also want to sell the college, so we need a good group of students who can do that,” he said.

These visits will be the first opportunity for the greater student body to be directly involved in the search process. In the fall, the search committee solicited ideas from students about traits they wanted Knox’s next president to possess, but some students feel that communication since then has been minimal.

“I wish they’d have a little update in the paper every week,” junior Erin Duff said. “I don’t want to make the presidential search my life, but it would be nice to know.”

Parents and alumni were informed of the committee’s progress over winter break via the Gizmogram e-newsletter. Once students returned to campus, Riddell held an information session about the presidential search, but attendance was low.

“I had class, so I couldn’t go,” sophomore Josh Gunter said. “But aside from that, when has there been the opportunity to get involved? I don’t think they’ve involved students enough.”

Riddell emphasized that the two student representatives on the search committee, sophomore Kate Haslem and senior Arianna Timko, did a good job representing the student voice.

“Your student representatives played a very significant role in the discussion after the [semifinalist] interview,” he told students who attended the information session. “They both had a lot to say.”

Once dates for the campus visits are set, Riddell will send an e-mail to the student body about participating in the selection process. Those who wish to do so will be expected to attend sessions with all three candidates and sign a confidentiality agreement.

At each session, students will have the opportunity to review the candidates’ curriculum vitae as well as ask questions. Afterwards, they will be able to share their opinions of the candidates with the search committee via an online survey.

“We really want to get your feedback on the candidates,” Riddell said to students.

The search committee has described the finalists as “mission-driven,” “innovative,” “adaptable,” “stunning” and “the whole package,” among other qualifiers. They include two women and one man, all of whom are currently administrators at liberal arts colleges. None is a Knox alum.

“It’s actually pretty rare [to have an alum as president],” Haslem said.

The candidates’ names will remain confidential until they arrive on campus for the final round of interviews.

“Confidentiality…is important because even though the finalists have told their campuses that they are finalists, they can’t all be president,” Riddell said. “We don’t want to do anything to impair their image on their own campus.”

More information about the presidential search can be found online at http://www.knox.edu/Knox-College-Presidential-Search.html.

Anna Meier

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