September 22, 2020

College holds open presidential search forum

By Michelle Lampariello
News Editor

As part of the ongoing search for the College’s next president, two open forums were held on Sept. 18 and Friday, Sept. 22.

The forums provided the campus community an opportunity to share which issues, both short and long term, they feel are important for the next president to prioritize. Attendees also discussed qualities that they would like to see in the next president.

Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, a consulting firm, has been hired by the College to facilitate the presidential search. The firm has previously helped to bring Jacqueline Taylor, the College’s Provost, Jane Wong, the dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Maurice Hall, the dean of the School of Arts and Communication, and Suzanne McCotter, the dean of the School of Education to the College.

“Our knowledge base of the institution is deep,” said Julie Tea, a partner at Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates. “We know that within the community, programmatically, the work that you’re doing day to day is ever evolving, so we are in listening and learning mode.”

Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates hoped to gain insight on what the campus community is looking for in its next president before the firm begins to aggressively recruit candidates in October.

Faculty and staff agreed that current College President R. Barbara Gitenstein has made great advancements during her tenure in several ways, including financially and academically.

Faculty members express concerns regarding diversity. (Randell Carrido / Staff Photographer)

“It was the president allowing us to continue to build on our mission and having the academic integrity and success in our programs that we’ve had, and embracing that graduate level of education,” said Anne Farrell, a health and exercise science professor. “She has done a great job over the past several years about doing our fundraising challenge, but our new president definitely needs to have an even mix of those two — being able to fundraise and bring dollars to the institution, but keep the mission of the institution relatively stable.”

Academic advancement was a common priority for faculty members in attendance.

“I’d be interested in a president who would be willing to be in support of doing innovative things that can bring more people in and allow us to educate them at a high quality—things like masters degrees in different areas,” said Andrew Bechtel, a civil engineering professor.

Gitenstein’s ability to maintain a pleasant relationship with the campus community is a quality that forum attendees hope will be continued by the College’s next president.

“As the former staff senate president, I’ve witnessed the transformative power of shared governance, which has taught me what it means to work as partners with students, faculty and staff to advance TCNJ’s mission,” said Antonio Scarpati, the assistant dean of the School of Nursing, Health and Exercise Science. “President Gitenstein consistently embraced this theme of partnership and in fact, she’s been nationally recognized for it. We need to select a candidate who shares that core value.”

Catherine Weng, head of cataloging at the College’s library, echoed Scarpati’s sentiment.

“We, the library, have been enjoying the support from the community and from the administration. So, we want to have the incoming president continue that tradition,” Weng said.

The College’s financial stability and fundraising efforts were also discussed in detail.

“I think one of the challenges that this next president is really going to face is we’ve gotten very adept at dealing with some of our financial challenges by growing our enrollment at the undergraduate level, and I personally feel that we are at a real capacity issue at this institution, partly academically but especially residentially and with some of our services for support,” said Matthew Middleton, associate director of admissions.

Ideas for generating revenue were mentioned as faculty members shared their thoughts.

“For my department, it’s really about having a president that understands the bigger picture, and the importance of athletics,” said Amanda DeMartino, executive athletics director. “To touch upon a lot of the themes that I’ve heard here in the room today: recruiting diverse populations, using athletics for fundraising, increasing our identity, community engagement and school spirit.”

Diversity and inclusion are also key priorities for the College. Faculty members shared long term concerns about diversifying the campus.

“It’s one thing to say let’s bring students here to try to diversify the student population, but what happens when they get here?” asked Winnifred Brown-Glaude, a professor of African-American studies and sociology. “I want someone, especially as we continue to struggle around budgetary issues, to not lose sight of three things: who we are as an institution, the importance of faculty governance and our real commitment to diversity in terms of faculty, students and staff.”

Farrell agreed with Brown-Glaude’s idea that the College needs to consider long term strategies for campus diversity, and stressed that these strategies are crucial to student success.

“We have been told a lot about the changing demographics of our students, or at least over the next couple of years, and strategies have started here,” she said. “But what is going to be the continued strategy so that the faculty here can continue to be successful as well as elevate the level of our students to make them successful as well?”

Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates encouraged the campus community to be actively engaged in the presidential search. Once a candidate of choice is elected by the Board of Trustees during the spring 2018 semester, there will be a period of overlap between Gitenstein’s and the new president’s tenure before the new president begins his/her term in the summer of 2018.

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