Students, faculty, staff and community members filed into the Henry J. Jacobs Conference Center on campus Thursday for four open "Campus Listening Sessions" to express what the qualities they wanted to see in a president.
They pleaded for ethical leadership, openness, commitment to the DSU family and alumni, passion for the students being served, retention and recruiting of students and faculty, and involvement in community and campus activities.
The DSU Campus Search Advisory Committee scheduled Thursday's public forums to gather input on qualities for the successor to Dr. John Hilpert, who will retire from the position on Dec. 31.
"The purpose of these forums being held today is to gather input through discussions on the quality and qualifications that you all believe the next Delta State University president should possess," said Alan Perry, member of the Mississippi Institutes of Higher Learning's DSU Board Search Committee. "With that being said we will open the floor to comments from anyone in the audience."
"I would like to see a president that would be more active with the student body on campus," said one second year student who was quick to express her opinion. "Many students on campus now have never seen their president."
"What I would like to see from the next president of this university is an open door policy to the students," said another student.
"I have witnessed first hand what I believe is the floundering of this institution as far as enrollment," said DSU Professor Emeritus Dr. Jerry Dallas. "What I would like to know is what role will the consulting firm that has been hired play in this process?"
"The role of the consulting firm is to weed through and organize the numerous applications that we expect to get for this position and find those candidates that meet the qualifications laid out for the position by the IHL," answered Perry. "They will have no role in the actual selection process."
"The last two presidents that have been here came as a surprise," said Dallas. "I, quiet frankly, didn't know either one of them when they were hired and it seems to me the desires of the faculty and student body were completely disregarded during the hiring process. I think that that was a mistake then and I still think that would be a mistake in this upcoming selection.
"I believe that whomever we select as a president should be a dynamic, charismatic person who can attract the support of the faculty and also fire up the student body," Dallas added.
"One of the things that attracted me to Delta State University 10 years ago was the community and type of school that it is," said DSU history professor Chuck Westmoreland. "It’s a small campus where people know each other.
"I think we need a president who has a presence," Westmoreland added. "I believe that is the most important thing a leader of any institution can possess — a strong presence with not only the students and faculty but around the community as well.
"I also look for a president that understands the difficulties that are faced everyday in the Delta," Westmoreland continued. "He/she needs to understand how the Delta is losing population, how that affects our enrollment numbers and what needs to be done to recruit students to Delta State."
Dr. Wayne Lee, a professor in the health and physical education department at DSU, said that he wanted to see a president that would have more of a presence with DSU alumni.
Many others voiced their opinion with the majority following the same paths.
Mississippi Commissioner of Higher Education, Dr. Hank M. Bounds, announced the members of the Campus Search Advisory Committee on Monday and it includes members from the alumni foundation, faculty and staff, retired faculty, students and community leaders.
Member of the committee from the Alumni Foundation are: Reginald Barnes, George Bassi, Donald Green, Will Hooker, Ned Mitchell, Billy Nowell, Jeremy Pittman, Nan Sanders and Anne Weissinger.
Members from the faculty and staff include: Vicki Bingham, Georgene Clark, Shelly Collins, Ellen Green, Rebecca Hochradel, Tanya McKinney, Paulette Meikle-Yaw, Chet Oguz, Brett Oleis, Clint Wood, Leslie Griffin, Billy Moore, Greg Redlin, Reagan Dilmore, Matt Jones and Benn Walker.
Student members are: Alanna Ferguson and April Moody.
Community members include: Tom Gresham and Fay Davidson.
James Robinson is the only retired faculty member on the committee.
"People want a visionary leader," and that's defined in different ways, said Dallas. "There are trust issues and relationships, external and within the university, that need to be improved."
Applicants for the position may apply until Oct. 19 for best consideration.
For more information on the application process, visit the Parker Executive Search Web site at http//www.parkersearch.com.
Following the best consideration deadline, Campus Search Advisory Committee members will submit at least five candidates unranked to the Board Search Committee and select the Interview Search Advisory Committee.
The Board will select the candidates to be interviewed.
The candidates for president of Delta State University will be interviewed later this fall, with a campus visit by the preferred candidate to follow.
For more information and to track progress on the presidential searches, visit the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning’s Web site at http://www.mississippi.edu/ieo/index.html.