New AU president to be revealed before spring break
Augustana will know its next president by spring break.
According to presidential search committee chair Becky Blue, the group of 16 tasked with narrowing the field of finalists and eventually choosing the university’s next president is on track to announce the news before students leave for break in early March.
“We’re keeping the search confidential,” Blue said. “But we are down to eight semifinalists, and we’re confident that we’re on target to announce the next president by spring break.”
As chair of the search committee, Blue helps the group select three finalists out of the current eight candidates for the extended search committee to choose from. This extended committee will be composed of about 45 board of trustees members, administrators, faculty and students from across campus who will select the next president through a series of in-person interviews.
The new president will be announced before spring to allow him or her time to be mentored by current President Rob Oliver before he leaves the position in July.
“Rob’s been so generous with the process,” Blue said. “We’ve come to realize, through Rob and the campus community, that we’ve created something really stellar here, something these candidates want to be a part of.”
ASA President Mason VanEssen is the lone student on the initial 16-member search committee, a role he doesn’t take lightly.
“I’m there to represent the perspective of the student body, not just my own,” VanEssen said. “My main objective is making sure the next president values the students’ needs and wants and is willing to wholeheartedly engage with them.”
VanEssen said he believes Oliver did a great job of engaging with students outside of simply being an administrator. He hopes to see the same involvement from the next president—a characteristic he considers attainable, given the field of candidates.
“Students should be excited about the next president of Augustana,” he said.
Blue agreed. Though the new president will arrive with the school in the middle of the current Horizons 2019 strategic plan and in the midst of a major fundraising campaign, Blue is confident any of the remaining candidates will build on Oliver’s success and commitment to putting students first.
“The expectation is that these candidates will follow along the same path set by Rob, while also throwing out a big vision for the university going forward,” she said. “We look forward to the next president building on our current strategic plan and leading us to all the bold possibilities ahead. We want this individual to simply be successful.”
As a freshman, Destiny Pinder-Buckley and her classmates will have more time with the incoming president than other students on campus. Given that she is in just her second semester, Pinder-Buckley said it is hard to know what to expect from Augustana’s next president.
“It feels like most of the attention this year has just focused on the search, but not the important specifications of the president’s role,” she said. “There’s the possibility of a lot of changes, and I don’t know what to expect, but I just hope the next president is involved and dedicated to the betterment of the university and all its students, especially in this divided state.”
That measure of success will depend not only on the commitment of the university’s next president, but also on the Augustana community as a whole, a community Blue feels attracted a strong field of potential leaders to the position.
“The candidates are attracted to the Augustana community,” she said. “They can see that we have something special here. I would tell students to just trust the process and be ready to celebrate when we announce the next president.”