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Three candidates, one position

The College is choosing between three candidates to fill the new position of assistant dean of Students and director of Leadership. Over the past two weeks, the three candidates each gave a 45-minute presentation at an open forum regarding their leadership history. There was time at the end for questioning.

According to the College’s website, the position has been created “to provide visionary direction for an institutional, scholarship-based, collaborative and cutting-edge leadership program.” Whichever candidate is selected for the job will report to the Associate vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students and will serve as a member on the dean of Students leadership team.

The candidate who is chosen “will build a comprehensive program that enhances student leadership and skills at an institution that consistently attracts a high achieving student body poised to lead and positively impact their communities. This program will include new curricular and co-curricular offerings with a focus on the development and implementation of a leadership certificate.”

The College narrowed down the applicants, looking for those who were “energetic, grounded by student development, leadership and learning theories and practice, and experienced in leadership program coordination and direction.”

Those who attended the open forums were able to evaluate The candidates on various topics including communication and presentation skills, ability to form positive working relationships, and how well the candidate would fit with the College, based on the presentation.

The evaluations were given to the Selection Team, made up of staff and student leaders, who will make the final decision on which of the three presenters will be hired.

The first candidate to present was Avani Rani who called herself a leadership educator and a social justice advocate. According to Rani, who presented on Jan. 31, her passion is “about engaging students in social and civic engagement.”

Rani recalled that her first recognition of leadership was when she was an eight-year-old elementary student and saw a student safety patrol in his bright orange belt with a badge.

Rani now works at Rutgers University as the assistant director of Leadership.

Ed Feldman gave his presentation on leadership on Feb. 4. The goals he outlined for his open forum were to engage in discussion about differences of opinion, to gain an understanding of and respect for others’ beliefs, to review the many ways leadership is defined, and to examine personal values and conceptions of leadership.

Feldman, who is currently working at the University of Rochester as the associate director of Student Leadership Programs, instructor for Leadership in the College Community and Pre- major Advisor, said that “leadership is individually-based” and that “you don’t have to be a leader to affect change.”

The final candidate, Kerri Cissna-Heath, presented her take on leadership on Thursday, Feb. 7.

Focusing mainly on race, culture and the need for diversity, Cissna-Heath said that she would want to empower students to go out and lead.

During the question and answer portion of the presentation, Cissna-Heath gave a brief outline of what her plans would be to combine leadership with diversity if she was chosen for the position. If hired, she would first study the culture and find student leaders to work with so she would know what areas need improvement. Cissna-Heath also said that she would bring in leaders to talk with the students or bring students to leaders from different backgrounds so they can learn how to lead from first-hand accounts.

Cissna-Heath is currently working at Pepperdine University as the director of Residence Life.

All three candidates spoke about how only a fraction of students identify themselves as leaders, and changing that outlook so that more students see themselves as leaders is a goal for each of them.

Colleen Murphy


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