After delay, presidential search begins next week

The timeline to find a replacement for retiring MSUM President Edna Szymanski has been pushed back, but the job will be posted online Monday, and a search advisory committee will meet for the first time next week.

At a Nov. 7 meeting in the CMU, the committee of two professors, three staff members, two community representatives, two administrators and one student will develop a schedule, talk about their role in the search and hear from the MnSCU chancellor via video conference, said Bemidji State University President Richard Hanson, the search advisory committee chairman. Like all of the committee’s meetings before the group invites finalists to campus, it is closed to the public.

Hanson said the committee’s recommendations about who will become the 11th president of MSUM would have a lasting impact.

“It’s so important and fundamental to a campus,” he said. “This person will set the course, so I consider it extremely important and a big-time challenge.”

Szymanski’s six-year presidency ends June 30.

According to the most up-to-date search advisory committee schedule: Following a two-month window, presidential applications “for priority consideration” are due; then the committee starts reviewing applicants, choosing a first round of candidates for airport interviews in early March; from March 31 to April 2, a second round of finalists will visit campus before a final round of interviews at the MnSCU office April 10; finally, the committee will make its recommendations to the chancellor, who will present his choice to the Board of Trustees at its April 23 meeting.

Originally, the committee was scheduled to meet Oct. 1, but Faculty Senate hadn’t had a chance to name their appointees so Hanson called off the meeting. Chancellor Steven Rosenstone visited campus that day anyway, seeking input on the process. In an interview that morning, Hanson said “we’re still going to shoot for” having recommendations to the chancellor by February, but “sometimes the calendar doesn’t work like that.”

It didn’t, but Hanson said Friday the two-month delay is a good thing.

“I’m glad we moved it back,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to do a better job, we just have to work hard to get good candidates in front of the people of MSUM.”

MnSCU spokesman Doug Anderson wrote in an email that the system is conducting several presidential searches this year and is staggering them rather than trying to complete them all at once.

“The search timeline was extended in order to allow more time for the search committee to be assembled, however, we remain confident that the search will be completed in time for the next president to be appointed and in place as planned on July 1, 2014,” Anderson wrote.

The Advocate reached out to each member of the search advisory committee, but all but one member either didn’t respond by press time or declined to comment.

Political science senior Kevin Struxness, the Student Senate president, did agree to an interview. He’s the lone student voice in the group.

“I’m honored to be a part of it, and I’m taking it very seriously,” Struxness said.

He’s already surveyed student group leaders, asking them what they’d like to see in the next president. Recurring criteria, Struxness said, included campus visibility, an open-door policy, conservative tendencies when it comes to money and a passion for student affairs.

“I hope during the process I get more feedback from students,” he said.

Struxness said so far the committee has only shared contact information and watched a 16-minute video on confidentiality, which he called a “nice refresher.”

Confidentiality is crucial, Hanson said, so candidates can get a feel for the MSUM presidency without jeopardizing their positions on other campuses.

“We hope to not have any kind of leakage early on,” he said. “We can keep a lid on (candidate’s identities) to protect them, so they feel they can be completely honest with us and be a viable candidate.”

Asked whether MSUM’s ongoing fiscal issues will make it harder for the committee to find a top-tier new president, Struxness said he didn’t think so.

“I think we have a good enough climate on campus to attract good candidates,” he said.

And simply being president of a university, he said, “is attractive enough.”

Hanson said he’s “sure we’re going to have really good applicants.”

“This is a good job at Moorhead,” he said. “It’s a vibrant campus, and it’s a great student body.”

Presidential Search Advisory Committee

Chair: Richard Hanson, Bemidji State University president

Student: Kevin Struxness, Student Senate president

AFSCME: Joel Thompson, admission’s office data analyst

MAPE: Lora Bertelsen, Hendrix Health psychologist

MSUAASF: Heather Phillips, Housing and Residential Life director

Admin.: Yvette Underdue Murph, VP of enrollment and student affairs

Admin.: Jan Mahoney, VP of finance and administration

Faculty: Justin James, mathematics professor

Faculty: Magdalene Chalikia, psychology department chairwoman

Community: Mark Anderson, CEO of BlackRidge Financial

Community: Corey Elmer, attorney at Vogel Law Firm

Community: Steve Scheel, CEO of Scheels All Sports

BY BRYCE HAUGEN
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