By Sophie Hills

While planning various scenarios for the fall semester, like every other institution of higher education, Principia College is also searching for a new president. The community will get a first glimpse of the field of potential candidates today at 12 p.m. CDT and again at 4 p.m. when one of the finalists Carol Burbee, assistant professor of educational studies at Principia, will speak briefly and answer questions.

The college president oversees the college campus and its 71 faculty, 200 professional and service staff, and nearly 400 students. The president reports to the chief executive, who makes the final hiring decision.

There were 80 nominees for the position evaluated by Storbeck Search and Associates and narrowed down to about 10 qualified and potential candidates by the College President Search Committee. Four semifinalists were interviewed by eight stakeholder groups involving over 70 people, said Roz Hibbs, chair of the committee, in an update given during an employee town hall on May 8. The process involving finalists will open up to the broader community today. [Correction: Due to a reporting error, the number of stakeholder groups was misstated. The correct number is eight.]

Six forums open to the Principia community will be held over the next week to meet the finalist candidates. Each candidate will have a short time to speak and then will answer questions, said a Watercooler announcement on Monday, May 18.

The first forum is today from 12-1 p.m. CDT, followed by another from 4-5 p.m. Two more forums will take place at the same times on Tuesday, May 26, and again on Thursday, May 28. 

Attendants are requested to register for the Zoom forums ahead of time, using the link in the Watercooler announcement. 

The College President Search Committee welcomes input on how well each candidate matches the profile for the next college president, said Hibbs, and forum attendants can provide feedback through a survey. 

“We would love [participants] to ask questions that they have about the candidates as they think about the needs and expectations for the role,” said Hibbs. Anyone can submit questions in the Q&A before or during the forums.

Secondly, “the committee is looking for community feedback on the strengths of the individual candidates and how well the community sees them fulfilling the roles of the college president,” based on the leadership profile on the College President Search webpage, said Hibbs. 

The feedback will be reviewed by the search committee, which has reviewed all other feedback up to this point. The committee will present and discuss their recommendation with Dennis Marunde, the interim chief executive. Marunde will make the final decision. The board of trustees has the authority “to ratify the appointment by the Chief Executive,” per the bylaws.

The decision will be made “as soon as possible,” said Hibbs. The search process began in February, and it’s been “a very thoughtful process.”

The leadership profile lists five broad criteria the new president is expected to meet: 

  • Champion and lead fulfillment of new strategic plan
  • Bolster student enrollment
  • Foster collaboration and community building
  • Lead commitment to the student experience
  • Serve as a steward of Principia College resources

Complicating the new president’s responsibilities is the added challenge of the moment: to ensure the survival of Principia College through the end of the global pandemic which has forced a number of colleges and universities to close their doors or greatly reduce their operations.

“The committee and stakeholder groups who have interviewed the candidate have been asking questions about how an individual responds to any kind of crisis situation, but I think when you have a leadership role such as this … this is part of being a leader,” said Hibbs.