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Panel gets local input for GS prez search
Confidential process means no finalist forums
Dustin Anderson.jpg
Dr. Dustin Anderson, chair of Georgia Southern's Presidential Search and Screen Committee, leads a listening session. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

The campus committee has chosen to conduct a “confidential” search for Georgia Southern University’s next president, so there will be no open forums with finalists before their names are submitted confidentially to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.

But the committee held listening sessions earlier this week where students, university employees and a few alumni and other community residents talked about qualities and actions they would like to see from the new president. Anyone can comment through a survey link on the committee’s webpage:

The 18-member Presidential Search and Screen Committee, chaired by Dustin Anderson, Ph.D., is charged with delivering an unranked list of three to five qualified candidates to the regents.

Anderson conducted the 3 p.m. Monday session, open to faculty, staff, students and community members, in the Russell Union building on the Statesboro campus. He had also presided at a 10 a.m. session specifically for faculty, an 11 a.m. session for staff, a 1 p.m. session for students and another opportunity for faculty at 2 p.m.

The 3 p.m. session, when a reporter counted 23 people in the room, was Monday’s best attended, Anderson said.

“Turnout for anything like this could always be better, but we’ve had really, really positive responses from people, I mean positive insofar as they’re proactive,” he said. “We’re getting the kind of feedback that we hoped to get out of these, so I’m really pleased with what the people who’ve shown up today have said.”

Anderson, an associate professor of literature, is also president of Georgia Southern’s Faculty Senate.

Five similar sessions were scheduled Tuesday on the Armstrong campus in Savannah, and a single session was held Wednesday at the single-building Liberty campus in Hinesville.

“What we’re looking for right now is building up some qualities, characteristics,” Anderson said. “We’re also talking about some things that we’re doing initiative-wise on campus that we would see a new president want to build or continue.”

Also sought were ideas for selling Georgia Southern to applicants as “the best possible school” to lead, he added.


Statesboro speaking

A few individuals from Statesboro’s business and nonprofit sectors voiced a desire for a president who respects the university’s relationships with its original hometown.

Kathy Jenkins, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County, noted that she is also a Georgia Southern student, alumna and parent.

“So I’m a little vested in this one, and what I have seen from all of my experience with Georgia Southern is that Statesboro and Georgia Southern are so very closely intertwined,  and I really want to see somebody come in that understands and appreciates that symbiotic relationship,” she said.

Someone who has served at another institution that has a similar relationship with the town it inhabits could be a good candidate, she suggested.

Phyllis Thompson, Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce president, spoke in a similar vein.

“Our community has worked particularly hard over the last five or six years to make more attractive and useful particularly those corridors that are most connected between the university and say, downtown …,” Thompson said, “and so we are hoping that it will be someone who will understand that our doing that is in part to make Georgia Southern a more attractive choice for students who have a lot of choices.”

As an example, she noted the Blue Mile initiative, a Statesboro community plan for the revitalization of South Main Street, a segment of U.S. Highway 301, between the main campus and downtown Statesboro.

When Anderson asked for examples of how previous GS presidents have forged links with the town, Thompson also noted the university’s creation of South Campus. This extension campus near City Hall includes Business Innovation Group programs and the FabLab.

Photographer and business owner Lori Grice suggested that a new president could do better than some past administrations in respecting relationships with the local business community. She and her husband are alumni with a daughter now dual-enrolled at Georgia Southern while in high school.

“In the previous administrations one of the things that troubled me is the assumption that Georgia Southern can bring so many things in-house and do it cheaper instead of create and maintain relationships that have been longstanding with the community,” Grice said.

During the same session, some GS staff and faculty members voiced a desire for a president who will speak up for the interests of employees about pay raises and other issues. A young female student said students want the president to make students’ safety a priority, and Anderson noted that he had heard this from students in other sessions.


                                                  More input?

The reporter had received a notice from the university communications office Sunday carrying a link to the committee’s webpage with the session times, but the Statesboro Herald has no Monday edition. The meeting times had been posted on the page the previous Wednesday, Anderson said.

A Sept. 4 announcement posted there notes that the committee’s decision to conduct a confidential search was unanimous.

“The committee talked about all angles of this, and what we want to make sure of is we are providing ourselves every opportunity to get in a broad range of candidates with a broad range of experiences so we can pick the best group of people to interview and then the best short list to send forward to get the right person here for our new university,” Anderson said Monday.

As previously reported, both University System Chancellor Steve Wrigley and a representative of the search firm Witt/Kieffer urged the committee to use a confidential search approach. In his Aug. 29 instructions to the committee, Wrigley also said he would love to get the list of candidates by Christmas, but the timeline is not binding.

A professor at Monday’s final session noted that 3 p.m. was a time when many people from the community were at work. He asked if the committee might consider a weekend session, possibly at the City Campus.

Anderson said the sessions were planned for central locations “mostly out of practicality” and noted he was hosting the sessions on all three campuses. He said hearing from students had been his first concern.

Call-in times could be a possibility, he said, and noted that the open-ended survey is available on the website. It also provides the search firm’s mailing address.

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.



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