Students speak up on prez search

The leaders of the Graduate Leadership Council and Student Government held forums this week where students discussed how they wanted AU presented to prospective presidential candidates as well as what qualities they wanted to see in a new president.

GLC Executive Chair Wade Murphy, a member of the Presidential Search Committee, ran two open forums for the graduate population, one Tuesday evening and one Thursday morning.

At both forums, Murphy set up a table where students could comment by filling out blue and red index cards. As students filled the cards out, Murphy entered suggestions into his computer.

He said he made both forums informal so students would be able to voice their opinions even if they did not have much time. Murphy held one forum in the lobby of the Ward Circle Building and one forum in the Kogod School of Business because most graduate students are already headed to these places, he said.

"Ward is a high traffic area," Murphy said. "We have a lot of [graduate] students coming through [Kogod] to get onto other campus areas. This is an easy, open area for students to swing by."

SG President Ashley Mushnick, another member of the Presidential Search Committee, moderated an open forum for undergraduate students Thursday evening. Shelley Weiss Storbeck, a representative from presidential search firm Edward W. Kelley & Partners, was also supposed to attend the forum but ended up not being able to. Mark Huey, secretary to the board of trustees, attended the meeting as her replacement. Mushnick said Storbeck will attend a second "brown bag lunch" meeting with undergraduate students Nov. 29 so she can hear student comments.

At the forum, Mushnick also had forum participants comment on a draft of the advertisement AU will use to recruit presidential candidates. Mushnick said the ad will run in several publications, including The New York Times.

At the forum, Huey said the presidential search process did not start until July because the board was focused on completing its governance reform plan.

"You can't attract a good pool of presidential candidates when you're going through an unstable situation," he said. "We wanted to be sure the issues brought up by the board's governance review were settled before we began a process like this."

Murphy said many of the comments he'd received from students focus on similar issues, including the need to find a president who would concentrate on improving AU's image.

"I'm seeing a lot of grouping. We really see a lot of people focusing on communication, the image of AU, rankings," he said. "It's the same things we're concerned about as a graduate community as a whole. You're seeing general groupings on finding somebody who will represent us both internally and externally."

Jose Abeid, a graduate student in Kogod, said the person chosen as AU's new president should be able to effectively raise AU's prestige.

"The school, at least perceptually, took a hit after everything that happened with the last president, so we have to get over that," he said.

Amit Tilani, a graduate student in Kogod, said his comments centered more on what he wanted AU to accomplish.

"It needs to be more results-oriented and there should be more performance management," he said.

One of the major issues students raised at the undergraduate forum was making sure the next president stays at AU on a long-term basis.

"It's really important that we decipher whether a potential candidate is going to be faithful to the university rather than using it as a stepping stone to other career opportunities," said Caitlin Hodgkins, Undergraduate Senate parliamentarian and a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs.

Erika Langhart, director of academic affairs for the SG and a sophomore in SPA, said she wanted the new president to be accessible to students.

"The new president should be someone who is responsive and interactive with students," she said. "The person should also be someone who can sustain and promote this university"

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