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Jennifer Bol, a consultant from Spencer Stuart, the agency selected to assist the Presidential Search Committee in recruiting Wesleyan's new president, asks the Wesleyan audience what they are seeking in the university's new president.
Posted 10.05.06

Presidential Search Forum Provides Insight

Pam Tatge wants a university president who has traveled or studied abroad. Michael Whitcomb wants a president who respects a diverse staff and student body. Suzy Taraba wants a president who values a liberal arts education.

These were all suggestions presented during a presidential search open forum Sept. 29 in Russell House. Wesleyan President Douglas Bennet '59, P'87, P'94 announced his decision that the 2006-07 academic year will be the final year of his presidency.

The forum was set up by members of the Presidential Search Committee to hear views and gain valuable feedback to be used in the search process.

“We’re here to find a leader who will thrive here and inspire our staff, faculty and alumni,” said Presidential Search Committee Chair Kofi Appenteng '81, P'07. “Doug Bennet’s leadership has strengthened the university considerably during the past eleven years, and the Presidential Search Committee is seeking to build upon this momentum.”

The attendees also met Jennifer Bol and Michele Haertel, consultants from Spencer Stuart, the agency selected to assist the Presidential Search Committee and the Board of Trustees in identifying and successfully recruiting Wesleyan's 16th president.

Bol led the forum, requesting that attendees speak about what qualities they’d seek in a new president. Ideas from the audience were numerous and varied.

Pictured at left, speaking, Suzy Taraba ’77, university archivist and head of Special Collections, said she hopes the new president will respect and honor Wesleyan’s unique history with the trend of mainstreaming in mind.

“I’m looking for a president who can understand that Wesleyan’s history is terrific and not something to be ashamed of,” she said.

Carol Scully, director of Foundation and Corporate Relations, suggested that Wesleyan and the new president continue to actively promote the value of a liberal arts education with policy makers and funders of higher education.

"We have noticed that funding for the liberal arts has declined at several major national foundations," she said. "We need to insure that liberal arts institutions are part of the broader conversation about higher education in this country."

Pam Tatge ‘84, director of the Center for the Arts, stressed that the new president should know the importance of using the arts in interdisciplinary ways, have experience working abroad, and have an interest in developing a positive relationship with the Middletown community.

“We’ve had a good track record under Doug Bennet’s legacy, and we need a new president who also can see the community relationship as an asset,” she said.

Makaela Kingsley ‘98, associate director of Reunion Leadership Giving, suggested that having some sort of connection to Wesleyan would be a plus; and Faraneh Carnegie ‘05, assistant director of Regional Programs and Networks, pointed out that the new president should value and respect Wesleyan’s diverse community.

“I’d hope the new president would like to continue to insure diversity among students, staff and faculty,” said Michael Whitcomb, director of Institutional Research.

Bol also asked the audience to describe the culture of Wesleyan.

Taraba explained that Wesleyan students tend to be “interested in everything,” and Camille Dolansky, associate director of Parent Programs, described Wesleyan’s students as “nice and intelligent." John Driscoll ‘62, alumni director, summed up the student body in one word.

“They’re feisty,” he said. “We think of arguing as a sport. We get very excited about points of view.”

Others said they wanted a president who values athletics, racial and economic diversity, had good listening and public speaking skills, values alumni from different backgrounds, enjoys spending time with students, who has the ability to back up why decisions are made and someone who understands the economics of higher education.

“I hope our next president will understand the vision of the university and get people excited and keep moving forward towards this vision,” said Pat Tully, associate university librarian.

Paula Lawson, associate provost, hopes the committee doesn’t rule out someone from a business or law background.

“This is the 21st century and we can think more broadly,” she said. “It’s OK to think outside the box.”

For more information on the Presidential Search Committee, go to:
http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsletter/campus/0906pressearch.html

Current committee members have established a Web site to collect confidential nominations and feedback from the community at http://www.wesleyan.edu/presidentialsearch.
 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor