EU presidential contenders begin on-campus interviews

Category:  News
Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 at 11:44 PM
EU presidential contenders begin on-campus interviews by Livia Homerski & Nathan Brennan
Photos: Nathan Brennan

Two of the four candidates for the Edinboro presidential position came to campus early this week, holding forums, meeting with various groups and more. The other two candidates — Peter Fackler and Guiyou Huang — are scheduled to hit campus after press deadline.

 

Dione Dorsey Somerville

Dr. Dione Dorsey Somerville, vice president for student affairs at fellow PASSHE institution Bloomsburg University, visited EU’s campus on

Monday to interview for the position of president. She met with different faculty members and students throughout the day, before holding an open forum in which she discussed her experience and vision for Edinboro as a candidate.

“I believe very much in the transformative experience that higher education has on our students,” stated Somerville. She then went into her first experience in higher education as a student-athlete at Ohio Northern University. What made this experience special for Somerville was the athletic and academic opportunities, feeling like she belonged, as well as faculty and advisors who cared and helped her with her academic goals.

“That’s what we all want for our students. That’s what I hear loud and clear when I’m listening to conversations on campus — when I hear what makes Edinboro special for them,” said Somerville.
She also noted that in her career, she’s noticed that student success is directly correlated to university success.

This is why she believes current EU strategic goals — such as improving the culture of student experience, professional development, and then support within and outside of the campus — is the right direction.

“Again, that speaks to a community that is moving forward, that has goals, that has ambitions,” said Somerville.

She continued by describing what she believes she’s most dedicated to: “Lastly, but never least, our students. Many of them (our students) come from a variety of walks of life, a variety of backgrounds, a variety of high schools, and they have entrusted us with their education. Our job is to make sure they’re not only competent in their academic life, in their area of expertise, but also confident. We want them to be whole people.”

Somerville then took audience questions.

The first question asked was: “What would be some best practices to infuse in the academic and student affairs side?” Somerville responded that not every best practice works for every institution, so she believes that the true best practice is collaboration from both sides to resolve any issues.

Somerville then elaborated more on collaboration when someone asked what her overall thoughts and philosophy was on shared governance.

“For me, shared governance is about that conversation of where you’re headed as a university, and that goes to leadership and leadership style. I believe that that kind of formal and informal communication is important. I think that’s how we come up with decisions and how some of the best decisions are made because there’s wisdom in a group,” she explained.

Finally, someone asked if there was anything that EU was missing and whether or not the university was a good package.

“I’m under no illusion that Edinboro needs to be something other than what Edinboro is. I believe that if there’s a sense of community, that while it has some needs, those who come along as a community heal and moves forward,” concluded Somerville.

After all questions were addressed, Somerville then asked what the people there wanted from a president, to which the most common answer was “long-term stability,” “trust” and “promoting student success.”

 

James Conwell

The second of Edinboro University’s four finalists in the running for president, Dr. James C. Conwell, visited campus on Tuesday. Among other meet-and-greets, the university held an open forum to discuss the priorities of the candidate, as well as the thoughts of the campus and student body.

Conwell first gave his background. Growing up around Pittsburgh, he attended the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt before taking up a career in engineering. Later, he left to change course and pursue a career in higher education. After working at several schools, he later settled for 5 1/2 years at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Citing the similarities between Terre Haute and the Edinboro and Erie area, Conwell stressed the importance of enriching the area. Of the Edinboro students and faculty, he said, “I saw the passion and the energy… people want to make Edinboro successful.”

For Conwell, one of the big takeaways from his visit was the drive of the people at the university: “It’s been an interesting day, but one that has had the common theme of the commitment of the campus to making sure that each and every person here is interested in wanting to help make Edinboro succeed.”

Conwell then began taking audience questions.

One audience member inquired as to how he would anticipate the changes that would come with evolving campus climate and campus growth.

In order to ensure this happens, Conwell stressed that connections made at the university have to be maintained after graduation. He said, “I think it’s really imperative that a place like Edinboro have a lifetime connection to its alumni,” adding that it would provide an effective channel of feedback and communication.

Overall, he seeks to make Edinboro innovative, which he defined as being “nimble and reactive to the needs of the student body and alumni,” which will, in turn, help them adapt in the future.

Another asked, simply: “Why Edinboro?”

Once more mentioning his former school, Conwell pointed out another similarity between the two schools that drew him in, which was being a “student-centric” campus.

Edinboro, according to Conwell, is able to provide a well-rounded and broad education that can prepare students for the world beyond the requirements of their majors. He explained, “I’m convinced that it’s very difficult to teach in four years what you’ll need in a 40-year career.”

In addition, he posited that teaching students to have “essential skills,” such as communication, discussion and writing, as well as a commitment to lifelong learning, is the most effective way to prepare students.

He was next asked about what he could provide in his leadership position.

Conwell, knowing of Edinboro’s commitment to the newly drafted strategic plan, is ready to execute. He said, “I think I’m experienced in taking strategic plans…and making that a reality.” In addition, he cited his abilities in fundraising, conveying that it is a skill that would complement the position well.  

He also mentioned that an effort to attract more students, perhaps more on the side of marketing or overall image of the university, would be required to expand the capabilities of the university. He wants to create a “clear, exciting proposition…that can be easily articulated that will enable [us] to attract the best in the world to come to Edinboro.”

Conwell then switched it up and asked the audience a question: what is holding Edinboro back from growth?

Among the answers were the past instability in university leadership and a lack of communication between faculty and students.

Conwell responded, citing seven words used by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges that help with correspondence with others: “Trust, collaboration, communication, transparency, inclusiveness, honesty and integrity.” He emphasized that these would be put into practice if he were in office.

He ended his remarks with a glowing recommendation of the campus: “This campus has such a commitment to making it happen…Who wouldn’t want to be part of a place like this?”

The name of the chosen candidate for the office of president of Edinboro University is expected to be released later this summer.

Livia Homerski | edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

Nathan Brennan | edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

Additional Photos:

Photos: Nathan BrennanPhoto: Livia Homerski
 

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