During the week of Nov. 28, SRU hosted the final four presidential candidates for the community to judge before one of them replaces President Behre after June 30, 2023.
The presidential search committee, comprised of Jeffrey Smith, Elise Michaux and Matthew Lautman, has been active since February and finally released the names of the final four on Nov. 22.
Each candidate gets two days on campus. They spend the first day in meetings with the provosts, the deans and the council of trustees.
The second day is largely spent in forums but also includes meetings with the president’s cabinet, lunch with invited students and a campus tour.
“I think each of them has the experience to take us five steps forward,” Michaux said about the candidates. “That’s exciting because we can’t continue to do the statis quo. These candidates aren’t interested in that, and that’s what excites me.”
Chance Glenn, the provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of Houston-Victoria, was on campus Nov. 28 and 29.
Glenn built his background in STEM and received his Ph.D. of philosophy from Johns Hopkins University, but he is perhaps best known as a singer/songwriter who has published more than 100 songs and recorded two albums.
In 2000, he had a song nominated for a Grammy and an album nominated for album of the year as a Christian artist.
As an active member of the community, including memberships for many professional organizations and serving on several chambers of commerce, Glenn understands the value of the experience.
When he talked with students, their love for the SRU experience stuck with him.
“This is a community and experience that all the students love,” he said. “I got a chance to talk to a number of students. You all love the experience.
“What we’re offering is encased within that culture, that experience. As we draw (students) in, then it is our responsibility to provide them the strong education that is going to help them.”
Glenn went on to explain that he will communicate with the faculty, staff and leadership to reassess academic programs to give students the strongest education possible if elected president.
Karen Riley, the provost and chief academic officer at Regis University, was on campus Nov. 29 and 30.
Riley’s background in education helped her to earn her Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Denver.
In her CV, partnerships are a specialty. She has previously created partnerships with local businesses, school districts and NGOs and innovated a partnership with community colleges. She has also initiated international partnerships and re-organized vendor partnerships.
“Education is all of our responsibility,” Riley said, “and I think that we have a great opportunity to partner with the local schools as well as to provide professional development for ongoing learning.”
In admissions, Riley has worked to reverse trends and define new approaches to awarding university-funded financial aid.
She also advanced the university’s Jesus Catholic mission in curriculum, faculty development and other areas.
“My job as president is to support all of the programs,” Riley said. “My job is also to support the provost, to support the need, to support all of the programs.”
From 2019 to 2021, Riley also served as the strategic director for health initiatives.
David Jones, the vice president of student affairs and enrollment management at Minnesota State University, Mankato since 2012, was on campus Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
Jones received his Ph.D. in educational policy, planning and leadership from the College of William and Mary.
In his role, he has worked closely with the president and provost and was responsible for creating enrollment and DEI plans among other responsibilities. Fundraising was not a large part of his job, but he fundraised where needed and for his local YMCA.
In 2021, Jones received the Fostering Inclusion & Diversity Certificate from Yale University School of Management.
He also grew the enrollment of students of color and international students to more than 27% through campus partnerships.
For innovations, Jones collaborated with the community and alumni to design a master plan for an innovative Greek housing model to increase student success, alumni engagement and brand identity for his university. Much of his early career was based in Greek leadership.
Jones also knows what consistent, stable leadership can do for a university and wants to be here to stay.
“We’re at the age in our career and point in our career where it would make sense to have a good 10-to-15-year run in a place to really embrace and be a part of it,” he said, referring to himself and his wife.
“It’s no secret to probably all of you that the turnover at the leadership level stunts the growth of the place,” he said.
In 135 years of operation, his current university has had 12 presidents.
He also implemented an early alert system. The new retention staff and advising model that came with it led to a 78% increase in first-to-second-year retention, the greatest rate in 18 years.
Mirta Martin, the former president at Fairmont State University, was on campus Dec. 1 and today. She’s quad-lingual and received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Martin has accomplished much in her professional career including five gubernatorial appointments, advising education for two former Mexican presidents, being highlighted by The PhD Project for Women’s History Month and being named one of the most influential women in Chesterfield County.
She’s also won awards like the President of the United States’ Volunteer Service Award, the Metropolitan Business League Humanitarian Award for Educational Excellence and the RichTech Technology Innovation Deployment Award.
During her time at FHSU, Martin expanded the university curriculum by more than 36 accredited degrees, specializations and programs, designed and implemented program initiatives that resulted in a net profit increase of $20.5 million and designed financial protocols to protect the university from risk.
For the university’s public image, she launched a rebrand to change the general perception of FHSU being inaccessible to students from underrepresented populations.
Martin has also been a director or board member for several professional organizations and chambers of commerce.
Despite being very decorated, and perhaps the most experienced candidate, Martin faced controversy at FHSU before resigning in 2016.
Martin faced complaints that, according to FHSU Faculty Senate President at the time Carl Miller, were supported by more than 100 faculty and staff from 17 departments in four of the five colleges.
“Dr. Martin has repeatedly and publicly spoken with heightened emotion, supported only by anecdote, about the threats to the job security of staff and faculty if we fail to support her plans for the university,” he said in 2016.
Curt Brungardt, a professor of leadership studies, wrote in a letter to the Kansas Board of Regents that Martin was not committed to shared governance, refused to share information, bullied faculty, made “impulsive and emotionally driven” decisions, showed “cronyism” in hiring practices and made a “habit of later denying what she said to our faces.”
However, provost at the time Graham Glynn supported Martin by saying those statements “are innuendo and are not backed up by evidence.”
Martin was also involved in an incident where she allegedly threw a shoe at Glynn, but he cleared up that it was in a joking manor that both parties laughed about.
Some faculty like Robert Scott, an assistant professor of education, were still “very sad” to see her resign.
Regardless of who is elected for the next SRU president, Michaux wants students to know that their input via the online evaluation for each candidate heavily factors into the final decision.
“I don’t think students recognize how important their voice is,” she said. “They think that their voices don’t matter as much as everyone else’s, but y’all have a big piece of this pie.
“I speak for the committee when we say we want to hear from everybody, which is why a student is on the search committee.”
The way Michaux sees these candidates, each of them would be a successful leader for SRU. The way people listen to them makes her feel the committee did their job well.