The first of four visits from Presidential candidates selected by the College’s Presidential Search Committee began last week. Dr. Kathryn Conway-Turner visited the College for three days Sept. 16-18, meeting with the various constituencies including the Board of Trustees, the President’s Cabinet Members, administrators, faculty, staff, students and community members.
Conway-Turner, founder of the firm “Leaders Across Boundaries,” has spent the past 27 years “devoted to focusing on components of liberal arts education,” she said during a public forum on Thursday, Sept. 17. Prior to founding “Leaders Across Boundaries,” a consulting firm dedicated to focusing on solving complex problems within higher education, Conway-Turner was Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at State University of New York (SUNY) in Geneseo, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and Professor of Psychology at Georgia Southern, and a Professor of Psychology and Director of Women’s Studies at University of Delaware. “St. Mary’s is a wonderful match because it’s a good fit to my experience and intrinsic dedication to liberal arts,” she said.
Among her experiences, she pointed to her time as Provost at SUNY Geneseo as being similar to the mission and students of the College. “While speaking to students here, I could’ve closed my eyes and been at Geneseo—there are many similarities,” she said.
Conway-Turner pointed to her rich background in academics as a strength when considering her as a Presidential candidate. Some of her accomplishments include excellence in programs and facilities as she discussed a state of the art integrated science program she developed at SUNY Geneseo, success in highlighting students, appreciation and focus on civil engagement, and the an understanding of the complexities of liberal arts education in developing the whole person—both in and out of classroom, through international programs, internships, and undergraduate research.
She also discussed the current economic situation as an opportunity to think more creatively about revenues for the campus. She explained that University of Delaware was a high-profile funding raiser and her experience at Georgia Southern and SUNY Geneseo have taught her how to working with staff to look for fund raising opportunities, seek grant opportunities and work with State legislators. More specifically, she discussed the importance of matching the will of donors to the needs of the College and also bringing donors and legislators to campus to showcase our efforts. The challenge being the “new landscape and new players… it takes time to foster those relationships,” she said.
Conway-Turner also addressed relationships with faculty and students. She focused on both formal and informal ways of cultivating effective communication. She described advisory task forces she developed at other institutions to gain feedback from students and also occasional appearances at Faculty Senates to have discussion with faculty. “I’ve been a faculty member for a long time so interaction would sow multiple ways. I like to attend lectures, labs and participate in events that matter to faculty and students because that’s also what matters to me,” she said.
Additionally, Conway-Turner expressed raising the visibility of the College as a top priority if selected to be the next President. “People often refer to St. Mary’s as a hidden gem—and they’re right. I’m really excited of the potential to be the voice to carry the story of St. Mary’s and elevate visibility because St. Mary’s can contribute significantly to the liberal arts education conversation,” she said.
The student and professor reaction to Conway-Turner’s visit was positive. “I think the first presidential visit went really well and I was excited to meet Dr. Conway-Turner,” said Student Trustee Debbie Travers. “It was a pleasure to give her a campus tour and she was extremely receptive to student questions and feedback, as I’m sure all the candidates will be.”
Philosophy Professor Sybol Anderson said she thought the overall presentation was great. “My sense was that her emphasis on collaborative decision making was close to what the college wants,” she said. “She seems really sensitive to, in sync with, and responsive to our concerns on this campus.”
“I think she absolutely has the potential to be a good president–she seems to have enough experience–and of all the candidates her resume was the most impressive to me and most correlated with my areas of interest. In practice, though, I can’t completely tell,” said sophomore Johanna Galat.
Other candidates include Jim Bacchus, J.D., Dr. MaryAnn Baenninger, and Dr. Joesph Bruno.
Bacchus, visiting Sept. 21-23, currently leads a global practice for one of the largest law firms in the world. He is a former judge of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization, was a two-term member of Congress from Florida and an aide and speechwriter for the Office of the Governor of Florida. He has taught both undergraduate and law school classes in political philosophy, governance, and international law.
Baenninger, scheduled to visit Sept. 23-25, has been president of College of Saint Benedict since 2004. She has served on the CIC Board of Directors, the Executive Board of the Annapolis Group, the American Council on Education Commission on International Education, and the Council on Undergraduate Research. Currently, she serves on the Board of Trustees of the American University of Sharjah.
Bruno, visiting the College Sept. 28 – 30, is a Professor of Chemistry and the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Wesleyan University. He served as a postdoctoral fellow in inorganic/organometallic chemistry at Indiana University before receiving a position in the Chemistry Department at Wesleyan.