A licensed pediatrician, a musician-turned college administrator and a former professor of British Renaissance Literature are all among the final three candidates named to be the next president of SUNY New Paltz.
Kenneth Abt, chair of the Presidential Search Committee and the New Paltz College Council, released the names of the three finalists to students via e-mail on Feb. 3. Candidates include Tufts University Pediatrics Chair and Chief Administrative Officer of the Floating Hospital for Children John Schreiber, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow and Mary Papazian, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Lehman College.
An unnamed fourth finalist was also invited to visit the campus but proceeded to withdraw from the search process, according to Abt.
Abt said that the search committee, formed on May 25, 2010, has done a “tremendous job” working together with Dr. Constatine Curris of Academic Search, Inc. to gather input about the desired qualities of a new president and review candidate applications and credentials, among other duties.
“In the committee’s quest during the last few months to find the best possible candidate to lead New Paltz, the group has carefully reviewed several dozen applications and narrowed a strong field of diverse candidates through confidential interviews,” he said via e-mail.
The search process began last spring when former president Steven Poskanzer announced he would be resigning from his position on April 23 to assume the duties of president at Carleton College in Minnesota. Abt then began to form the search committee – now consisting of College Council members, seven faculty, one dean, two students and others – in accordance with the SUNY guidelines for conducting a presidential search.
State education law requires that the president or chief administrative officer of a SUNY campus is ultimately chosen by the SUNY Board of Trustees. According to the SUNY New Paltz presidential search timeline, the names of the three finalists will be sent to Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, who will review the candidates and set forth her recommendation to the SUNY Board of Trustees to be approved to the presidency at their March 22 meeting.
Schreiber, Gow and Papazian have each had two-day visits to the campus this month. Abt said they then met with faculty, staff, administrators, community leaders, Foundation Board, alumni representatives and members of the College Council. Student Association (SA) Vice President of Academic Affairs and Governance Caitlin Ryan said she and the members of the executive board had sessions in which they were able to ask the candidates questions.
SA President Jennifer Sanchez, who sits on the search committee with former SA vice president of academic affairs and governance Brenna Fearey, said sitting in on the interviews for the candidates has been a learning experience for her and that she’s enjoyed working with the committee.
“It’s been an extensive process – no one is taking this lightly,” she said. “We all really care about who will be the next leader here at New Paltz.”
The “Meet the Candidate Sessions for Students” began on Thursday, Feb. 10, when John Schreiber was the first to speak with those in attendance at the forum in Student Union 62/63.
During the session, Schreiber called himself a typical candidate for the position because he has not served as a provost or president of a college institution. However, Schreiber said his work in the medical field has taught him how significant of an impact he could make in the lives of young people if chosen president.
“For me, it’s a natural extension of being a pediatrician,” he said. “There are a lot of interesting things happening here and the students seem to really care about this
Schreiber said there were “a lot of assets on the ground,” academically at SUNY New Paltz, and if he were chosen president he would like to create interdisciplinary programs in business and fine arts. He also said the strengthening of science, technology and engineering programs would be important to the state and the country.
After being asked by students what he would have to work on first if chosen for the position, Schreiber said that managing the college’s budgetary deficit would be a top priority.
“We’re not talking about trimming a little fat – we’re way beyond that here and the grass is sort of brown everywhere,” he said. “It is not business as usual in the United States right now. But I still consider myself a ‘glass half full’ kind of person in spite of the daunting challenges ahead.”
Schreiber and Gow, who was also asked about the possibility of meeting the shortfall when he met with students four days later, said administrators should look to bring in new revenue streams and continue to reach out to alumni.
Gow, whose current position at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is the equivalent of a college president, said he would look to be very involved in the legislative process to ensure that the college “gets the funding it deserves” from the state to better the school’s economic future. He also said he would be interested in creating a joint planning and budget committee similar to the one at his current school, which is comprised of faculty, staff and students.
“I’ve heard loud and clear from the students here that you want transparency in this process,” he said. “The budget is the theme of so many conversations now, but we can work to get through this together.”
Though Gow is currently managing a multi-million dollar deficit at his school in Wisconsin, he said he is happy there, but excited about the possibilities of a new position. Although he said he “never would have guessed” he would be a college administrator when he was a student first studying business and eventually journalism, – all while initially considering pursuing a career in music – he said he has loved working in this capacity and would like to continue his experience in New Paltz.
Gow said one of his favorite parts of being a college administrator is interacting with students and said he would like to develop a relationship with the student body here if chosen president. He said he would pursue moving the president’s office down from the ninth floor of the Haggerty Administration Building to indicate how he wanted to make himself as available to the campus community as possible.
“I guess I am like the head cheerleader at my school now and I would want to celebrate the good things going on here,” Gow said. “The bottom line is, when you graduate and have on a New Paltz cap or shirt on, I would want people to say ‘Wow, that’s a great school.’”
After Schreiber and Gow’s visits, Papazian, an English professor who has served as an associate dean, dean and now as a provost at several institutions, will also be available to speak with students on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. in Student Union 62/63. After each of the visits, an online survey was sent to all students for evaluating each candidate.
Donald Christian, who had served as provost and vice president for academic affairs since August 2009, will continue to serve in the interim position until the SUNY Board of Trustees approves a new president.
Interim Director of the Office of Communication and Marketing Suzanne Grady said the presidential search process is “on schedule.” The anticipated start date of the new president is July 1.