Sunday, May 19, 2024

PSUC hosts presidential candidate forums

The race for Plattsburgh State new president has begun.  Candidates started meeting students and staff Sunday, March 3.  

The first step in the process was to get a search committee organized and it has been opened for those who wished to apply.  It has been narrowed down from twelve to five candidates for the position of the president.  These five individuals come to PSUC’s campus and tour the school and talk to students and faculty.  Feedback is collected from the campus community and the search committee narrows the selection down to three individuals that will meet with the chancellor, Kristina M. Johnson, who will make a recommendation of who the next president will be for PSUC, according to the official SUNY Presidential Search document for state-operated campuses. 

Candidate one is Teresa M. Brown who currently serves as the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at SUNY Fredonia.  In introducing herself during one of the conversations she had with faculty and students, she’s placed an emphasis on the value in having a connection with the campus community and being present in the lives of PSUC students every day.

At the forum on her second day at PSUC, Brown connected the story of her father to her passion for public higher education.  She explained how he was one of 18 children and worked tirelessly the majority of his adult life to attain his bachelor’s degree.  She conveyed to the audience that her father inspired her passion for education, and was the one who instilled in her the value to be had in getting a college education, and that it is an important facet in one’s life.

“I would say that what motivates me is the belief that higher public education has to stay strong,” Brown said. “I also believe that universities have to be inclusive meeting grounds of diverse perspectives, and that it’s important that we create spaces where people can be honest and open and speak candidly, and also places where all people feel like they belong.  Those are the values that will motivate me.”

Candidate two is Lily Hsu. Hsu currently acts as the provost for Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Hsu talked to students about the importance of diversity and inclusion within any university and shared experiences from her adolescence. Her parents were immigrants from Korea living in the United States.

Candidate three is Donna Wilson. Wilson is currently executive vice president at Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Wilson said she is not interested in the title of college president;she is more interested in the opportunity to collaborate with students.

Candidate four is Dione Dorsey Somerville. Somerville is currently vice president for student affairs at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Dorsey was a first-generation college student. She talked about making college more affordable, so more students can have the experience without working 30 or 40 hours a week.

The final candidate is Mary S. Alexander. Alexander is currently the vice president for academic affairs at Western Connecticut State University. 

A select number of students and faculty have been attending different forums to listen to the candidates, as well as to ask their own questions that relate to their concerns for how they will take care and improve the campus community.

Essence Hightower is a junior sociology major and the current SA president.  

“Dr. Brown, what she gave to me was, ‘I will dedicate myself personally and you can hold me accountable’,” Hightower said. “And with her saying things like that, talking about how at SUNY Fredonia they practice things like inclusion, actively practicing things with inclusion, they have different programs and things that she could possibly bring here.” 

There has been a call for more inclusion to be present on campus and it has been made clear to be among the primary concerns for Plattsburgh’s campus.

“Hearing things like that definitely made me feel more safer,” Hightower said.  

Anne Whitmore Hansen is the Vice President for Institutional Advancement and has been thoroughly involved with the experience of assimilating and introducing the candidates on campus and to the students and faculty.

“One of the most important qualities will be someone who can really work with the entire campus community in building a more inclusive community.  We’ve begun some work over the past few years to address inclusion,” Hansen said. “There’s a lot more work to be done and we need a real champion, someone who will engage in this, someone who’s very passionate about this and has a deep commitment to it, and enjoys that type of work.”

The well-being of public higher education has also been an important contention to implement, as conveyed by Dr. Brown and as stated by Anne Hansen.

“In addition, we need someone who has experience with public higher education,” Hansen said.  “Is committed to public higher education, that’s who we are, that’s what we do.” 

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