DOWAGIAC — Four candidates have applied and four candidates will be interviewed to be the next president of Southwestern Michigan College. SMC Board members voted Monday night to interview all four in an all-day session of interviews on Sept. 30.
The four, all SMC employees, are David Fleming, Lucian Leone, Joseph Odenwald and Stacy Young. Fleming and Odenwald are both vice presidents at SMC while Leone is the director of admissions and Young is the dean of the school of business.
SMC Board President Tom Jerdon asked board members whether they wanted to interview one, two, three or all four, and members voted unanimously to interview all four. Jerdon did not specify specific times for the interviews on Sept. 30, but said he expected them to last “all day.”
The board’s vote came after nearly an hour of public comments on what qualities and characteristics the new president should have, as well as a renewed call from faculty members and others to conduct an external search.
Virginia Crawford is a member of the SMC Foundation Board and said there are pros and cons to both types of searches. Board members voted in August to conduct an internal search, saying that an external search would be too costly and they wanted a known rather than unknown candidate.
She said an internal candidate has institutional knowledge of the college and poses less risk to the board since members would be familiar with their performance. “On the con side, it could cause internal conflict and the person chosen not respected by everyone when there is a smaller pool of candidates,” she said.
“If you don’t feel you have a big enough pool, you could go outside to get someone with a new perspective,” she added. “The cons are a greater cost, it taking more time, unknowns, and the person may not be a good fit. The good news here is that you have a strong pool of candidates with strong institutional knowledge.”
SMC Faculty Union President Jeff Dennis had a different perspective. “I’m impressed with the internal candidates. They are good people with the best of intentions,” he said. “But it’s not best practice and it’s not the common practice to have no external search and no search committee.”
“Four candidates is not sufficient. The president is the single most important person on campus and you need to look at the visions other people might have,” he said. “Networking is important but we really don’t network very well. We’re isolated from other schools.”
“You want the widest number of candidates and voices and the internal candidates need that affirmation of how they stand against other candidates,” he said.
In another search-related action, board members appointed Jerdon, board Treasurer Rebecca Moore and board member Beth Cripe to a presidential compensation committee. They will research what compensation packages other college presidents get locally, regionally and nationally, then bring that information back to the board.
Trustee Elaine Foster asked unsuccessfully to be on the committee, citing her experience as a college administrator, but did not get a second for her motion to amend the original nomination motion. She was the only person to vote against appointing Jerdon, Moore and Cripe.