Talks of enrollment, community and student engagement, and academic programs continued Tuesday at the Welcome Center as a part of Southeast Arkansas College’s four-day open forum for candidates seeking the position of president.
Members of the faculty and staff, along with residents, listened intently as Kaleybra Morehead — one of four candidates — discussed why she should be chosen to lead SEARK into the future.
“Because of the experience that I have, I think that it shows that I have the educational background and the experience that allows me to understand the challenges and opportunities that affect this college,” she said.
“I’ve been here under four different presidents with four different leadership styles, and I’ve gained something from each and every one of them.” Morehead currently serves as the vice president for academic affairs at SEARK.
She is also the institutional effectiveness coordinator at the college. During her time at SEARK, she’s also had the position of vice president for academic and college affairs. Morehead received her bachelor of arts in political science from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a master of public administration and a doctorate in higher education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
After current SEARK president Stephen Hilterbran announced his plan to retire on Dec. 31, 2017, the college began a nationwide search for his replacement. Over the summer, SEARK contracted the Association of Community College Trustees to assist them in building a profile to attract potential candidates. With the help of ACCT, 58 applicants applied for the position; now, four remain in the running to become SEARK’s next president.
Before the question and answer session of the forum began, Morehead dished on characteristics that make her the right fit for the job, including, but not limited to, her experience in academic affairs, advisement, fundraising, student services and activities, research and public affairs.
“I consider myself a very good listener,” she said.
“I listen with my heart and with my mind as well as with my ears. I am also very professional, I have an excellent work ethic and I believe in people.”
Having worked under four administrations, Morehead also elaborated on her knowledge of campus activities, which would give her an edge-up on the competition.
“…Indirectly and directly, I have participated in a lot of the programs and projects that we have on-campus,” she said. “I’ve participated in them and I’m familiar with them, so I think that makes me a definite candidate for the president of this college.”
“…Every morning I wake up and I am so glad that I am coming to make a difference in the lives of a lot of students and my employees,” she said. “I am so honored to lead the academic affairs area. I have some great people working for me and I have gained some great relationships with them…”
As a part of the open forum, attendees had the opportunity to ask Morehead questions anonymously. From management style to employee morale, remediation programs and open-door policies were among some of the topics discussed.
In an effort to increase enrollment numbers, which have declined over the past few years, Morehead talked about plans to reach more students locally.
“We’re going through K-12 (schools) and telling them what we can do for them,” she said.
“We have several concurrent programs and we have dual credit programs and all of these things can help to increase the college going rate for this community. We also want to work with K-12 because so many of them don’t come to college, but if they know the tools, know how to take tests, and know how to succeed in the classroom, I think that’s going to be a dividend to us in increasing our enrollment here at the college.”
The possibility of flexible and summer work hours for employees was also a hot-topic as it was asked during the forum more than three times by various people.
Morehead wasn’t opposed to the idea, but instead welcomed the thought of offering it year round.
“I wake up early every morning, so I don’t really have a problem with it,” she said. “If a majority want to get here at 7 and stay until 6, I’m fine with it.”
Building on the foundation of Hilterbran and others before her, Morehead expressed only making decisions that benefited the college and its goals to move forward.
“I don’t want to come in and make a lot of changes,” she said. “No one likes changes, but they have to happen. I want to make those changes that best fit the needs of the college and I don’t make decisions fly by.”
Morehead also addressed plans for the future of SEARK, which focused on educating and preparing students.
“SEARK’s top priority over the next five years should be the same as it is now, and that’s making education accessible to our students and trying to educate more students,” she said. “Not only educating them in learning their degree area, but also teaching them social skills, teaching them to be better citizens for this community.”
Feedback forms were provided to those in attendance, which will be given to the Board of Trustees for further review as a part of the presidential search process.
“I know that she is truly vested into this community,” said Hymes who is a retired Pine Bluff School District art teacher. “Just to hear her say what she said today was outstanding. She really has a passion for this community.”
State representative Ken Ferguson was one of many community members in attendance. Familiar with her background in education and community involvement, Ferguson said he thought Morehead was great candidate for the position.
“I think it’s important to have someone that is in tune with the community,” he said. “I think she’s a very well qualified individual, and I think she understands the dynamics of this college and this community in this part of southeast Arkansas. We know her. I know her and some of my colleagues in Jefferson County know her and know of the good work that this community college is doing, and that struck me as something that is outstanding.”
Elaborating once more on her experience at SEARK, Morehead reminded attendees about the work she’s done while at SEARK as a key factor in why she’d be a great asset in the role of president.
“This college needs someone who is familiar with the history of it and I’ve lived it,” she said. “It needs someone who is familiar with the infrastructure and I helped build it. We need someone is active in the community. I’ve been active longer than I’ve been here at this college and I think I have a lot of innovative and new ideas and I think I bring a lot to the table.”
The remaining presidential finalists will participate in an open forum over the next few days. The schedule is as follows: Nov. 8 Steven Bloomberg at the Welcome Center Training Room from 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., and Nov. 9 Paul Hutchins at the Welcome Center Training Room from 8:30-9:30 a.m. Residents are encouraged to attend the forum or contact the ACCT if they have any questions and suggestions.
For more information contact:
•Narcisa Polonio, Executive Vice President for Education, Research and Board Leadership Services, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-276-1983 (mobile)
•Julie Golder, Board Services Coordinator, email@example.com, 202-384-5816 (mobile)