The flagship campus of the state's second-largest university system may have a new chancellor by the end of the week.
The flagship campus of the state’s second-largest university system may have a new chancellor by the end of the week.
Arkansas State University’s Board of Trustees will meet Friday in Searcy and likely will name a new chancellor for the Jonesboro campus, probably from among three finalists who have “run the gauntlet” of an advisory committee, campus visits and subsequent online evaluations.
The search began last summer and drew more than two dozen applicants. ASU System President Dr. Charles “Chuck” Welch said in a radio interview Saturday night that he hopes to have a decision this week.
The finalists are Dr. Soraya M. Coley, provost-vice president for academic affairs and interim vice president for university advancement at California State University at Bakersfield; Dr. Tim Hudson, vice chancellor of the Texas Tech University System; and Dr. John M. Beehler, provost and vice president for academic excellence and student success at the University of North Texas at Dallas.
All three visited the campus in mid-February, and were subjected to a nearly identical schedule involving campus and community groups. One of those was an open forum, and I sat in on all three to get a sense of how each would interact with a diverse group.
Unfortunately, the turnout wasn’t all that diverse and was disappointing in numbers. Most of those attending were members of the ASU staff, with a few faculty members here and there. There were other opportunities for the various communities to meet the candidates, though.
All three are certainly well-qualified on paper; in fact, their resumes fill a lot of paper. But a chancellor doesn’t work on paper, so I was looking for more. With the system president now based in Little Rock, the chancellor will be the face of the Jonesboro campus.
The second permanent ASU-Jonesboro chancellor has some big shoes to fill because the first, Dr. Robert Potts, did such a great job after being appointed in late 2006. The trustees had created the position, deciding that the university system had grown enough that the president should no longer be expected to handle day-to-day operations at Jonesboro.
Potts had planned to retire in mid-2010, but President Dr. Les Wyatt resigned first, and Potts agreed to stay on as interim president pending a search. Eventually, the search resulted in Welch’s appointment. He took office last April, and Potts retired.
Meanwhile, Dr. Dan Howard, who had been provost (chief academic official), was elevated to interim chancellor. He applied for the permanent position but in January elected to return to the provost job and withdrew his name.
That means ASU will probably go out of state to choose a new chancellor, and that worked well with Potts, who came here from North Dakota but already had a Southern accent. However, it didn’t work so well with a couple of presidents — Dr. Ross Pritchard, who followed the legendary Dr. Carl Reng in 1975 and only stayed on three years, and Dr. John Mangieri, whose even shorter tenure ended in scandal in 1994.
No other serious candidates from Arkansas advanced their candidacies, though, and a new chancellor from outside the system and state can certainly bring a fresh perspective and new ideas.
That said, two of the three finalists are now working in Texas, and based strictly on the campus forums, I’d say Hudson will be the choice. He drew the largest crowd and connected best of the three with those attending. He had two advantages. One was that his forum was held in the ballroom of the Cooper Alumni Center, which is smaller than the more impersonal Reng Student Center auditorium.
The other advantage is that he apparently has more experience at this sort of process, having been a finalist for president or chancellor at five other institutions since January 2011.
Hudson, whose degrees are in history and geography, also was a candidate to replace Welch at Henderson State University, but the board there decided to restart the search process without doing any interviews.
It’s obvious that Hudson, who took his present position in 2010 after six years as president of the Houston-Victoria campus, is looking for the right opportunity.
Beehler delivered his remarks from behind the podium on stage in the mostly empty auditorium, then came to the floor to take a few questions. His session lasted about half the length of the others.
A certified public accountant, Beehler took his present position after three years at Northern Kentucky. About the same time he was a finalist for provost and vice president for academic affairs at Western Kentucky University.
Coley had a larger and more lively audience for her session. Early in her remarks she relied heavily on the jargon of academia, but she connected well in the Q-and-A session. And it was obvious she had done plenty of research on ASU.
I found no indication that she has applied elsewhere since starting at CSU in 2005. Most of her many references on Google relate to the third edition of her book, “Proposal Writing: Effective Grantsmanship.” Her degrees are in sociology and social planning.
The ASU-Jonesboro chancellor’s position offers an annual salary of $230,000 and change, plus a big house. That’s not exactly a football coach’s atmosphere but enough to be comfortable.
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Roy Ockert is editor emeritus of The Jonesboro Sun. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org