By Taylor Frey
Elm Staff Writer
With the departure of Former President Mitchell Reiss, the Board of Visitors and Governors is searching for a new president. On behalf of the Board and their appointed Presidential Search Committee, an independent search firm recently held open forums for staff, faculty, and students to participate in the search process.
Specifically, the search forum asked students about the culture of Washington College, challenges the College will face in the next few years, and what we would like to see in a new president. While there could have been increased student turnout at such a critical moment in the College’s history, this forum still generated a heathy student conversation and gave us an opportunity to speak on behalf of our peers and the College we love.
The College is at a crucial moment in its history and we need a president who can lead us to success. During the last few years of the Reiss’s presidency, the College was put on the right track. Prior to 2010 the College was not positioned for improvement, sustainability, or success. With the influx of many highly-qualified senior staff members and the development of a strategic plan, WC is now repositioned for the present and future while still holding true to its treasured past.
In a world and marketplace of great change, the College must compete and adapt to keep up with financial, technological, and demographic change in the world of higher education. WC must work to survive and thrive as an institution while holding tight to its history, uniqueness, and culture.
It is this environment of measured change that a new WC president will need to enter on the first day of their job. As a result, WC needs a leader in Bunting who can balance this change with sustainability, quality control, and an eye on the future. As students, faculty, and staff adapt the school’s reputation as a regional institution to that of a nationally competitive liberal arts institution, WC needs to strike a sustainable compromise. While students need to be roused to financially and institutionally compete, the school cannot do so without also raising the endowment, student retention, the number of applications for admission, the number of staff and tenure-track faculty, the quality and quantity of student housing, the level of campus pride and diversity, and the services available to students.
The repositioning of the “little College that could” can almost be physically felt around campus on the Cater Walk, in classrooms, and inside administrative offices. WC’s repositioning mostly inspires feelings of excitement for the future, but in many it inspires trepidation, nervousness, and fear. Fear is good in small amounts. It keeps us from moving too fast and insures that we stay true to our values; yet fear must be controlled. The College cannot let fear hold it back and keep it from adapting. Above all else, any new president must be able to assuage the fears of others and forge a compromise between the WC of today and the WC of tomorrow.