WHEN Adams State kicks off a search for its 12th president with a convening meeting of its search committee Thursday, a host of questions and expectations will be confronted.
The university’s Board of Trustees dismissed the last two presidents in short time for their failure to gain the confidence of the campus and to improve the undergraduate enrollment and overall morale. This raises some initial questions:
Is it possible for someone not from the San Luis Valley or with strong local ties and ties to Adams State to succeed in the position? The answer should be “Yes” because undoubtedly the candidate field will include interest from the academic world outside Adams State.
Should the focus be on drawing the interest of qualified local candidates? Curtis Garcia, the director of Adams State’s teacher education program; Armando Valdez, the vice chair of the Colorado State University Board of Governors and recent Adams State faculty member; and Kent Buchanan, the current vice president of Academic Affairs, are all interesting names that would give the committee strong local candidates to consider.
Garcia and Valdez are both Valley natives and would give Adams State, a Hispanic Serving Institution, its first Hispanic president. And there are others at Adams State and qualified names in the San Luis Valley who, if they apply, would also make for strong candidates.
Which gets us back to the last two presidents, Beverly McClure and Cheryl Lovell, and why didn’t they work out? Each came in with a high degree of confidence among the Adams State Board of Trustees and each had a game plan of how they wanted to move Adams State forward.
But ultimately McClure resigned under pressure and Lovell had her contract terminated. Why?
“It’s a heavy lift,” said Cleave Simpson, who was chair of the Adams State Board of Trustees when Lovell was hired and had just been appointed to the board when McClure was brought on. He is now a state senator and sits on the Legislature’s Capital Development Committee, which makes recommendations for major improvements on state-owned campuses like Adams State.
“While I was chairman of the board, I thought Dr. Lovell did exactly what we asked her to do,” Simpson said. Lovell focused on eliminating campus positions and held other jobs open to help Adams State reduce its overall payroll and find enough breathing room in the university’s finances to be seen as financially viable by auditors and public bond-rating agencies.
But she never gained the confidence of the overall campus and was seen as a president who preferred to be in Denver rather than Alamosa.
“I think this is a great opportunity to bridge that gap between the campus community and the greater community,” Adams State Trustee Mark Martinez said of the upcoming search.
He is co-chairing the search with Trustee Jonathan Marquez. The fact both are Alamosa natives and both attended Adams State gives a sense this search could be different.
“It would be awesome to nail this and find someone that has that staying power to bridge that gap better between the campus and the community,” Martinez said.
He said he’d love to see a host of local candidates and hopes people like Garcia and Valdez and others submit their application. When the committee convenes it will begin to decide whether a national search firm or other outside consultants are needed to help the committee publicize and accept applications for the search.
Eventually, a smaller subcommittee will be formed to vet candidates. Ultimately a list of names will be submitted to the Board of Trustees for their consideration and decision.
The fact Tandberg is in place for the academic year gives the search committee and the Board of Trustees plenty of time to get it right, Martinez said.
“I appreciate the gravity of it. We need to really nail this search,” he said.