Search committee process earns kudos from JSC community


Meredith Andrews

Alyssa Slaimen

For the first time in nearly a quarter-century, the Vermont State Colleges board of trustees launched a national presidential search following Barbara Murphy’s announcement that she will be retiring at the end of the 2014-2015 school year after 14 years at JSC. Murphy came to JSC after serving for six years as president of CCV.

The board-appointed search committee, which has now been disbanded following the selection of Dr. Elaine Collins as JSC’s new president, consisted of 13 members, including representation from faculty, staff and students.

All members of the search committee agreed that its strength lay in its diversity. There were members of the board of trustees who had experience with searches and were able to help to guide the process.

“I’ve been really delightfully impressed with this committee,” said Professor of Fine Arts Ken Leslie, a member of the search committee. “I’ve been on many committees in my time and this is a good, diverse group of thinkers. Everybody on the committee is representing at least one, if not more, components of the college community.”

Alyssa Slaimen, the student trustee on the board and part of the search committee agreed. “There was a broad spectrum of people on the committee from faculty to staff to students to community members and it was a good composition of what Johnson represents and people who can uphold the values of the VSC,” she said. “There were trustees who had been on the board for years and they’ve gone through searches before so they knew what to look for when looking at applications. The people chosen for the committee itself thoroughly represent Johnson.”

The committee narrowed down a list of around 40 applicants to 10 , and then down to the four who visited the college late in January. “We spent a really long time putting together the agenda for the people [who visited the school.] We’ve done a good job. I wouldn’t have changed anything,” said Slaimen.

Kathleen Brinegar, chair of the Education Department, was pleasantly surprised by the unanimity that developed among the members of the group as the process unfolded. “I didn’t know what to expect, but amazingly we agreed on everything up until we brought the four candidates to campus,” she said. “I think that we were very successful.”

Most members of the committee agreed that their job was made easier by the candidates themselves. Because the candidates they were presented with were all such strong contenders for the position, many on the committee felt comfortable with the four semi-finalists knowing they all brought impressive strengths to the table. “We had candidates who fit the college very well, and I think that [we knew that whoever we chose] would be accepted by the community,” said JSC student Shayna Bennett, also a member of the committee.

The process was different from the most recent, in which Barbara Murphy was appointed president. “I was invited by the then-chancellor to be the single candidate. It wasn’t exactly a typical situation,” Murphy said. “The board approved the idea of my invitation, and I did two days of interviews at Johnson, much the same way these candidates did.”

Murphy went on to praise the search committee, saying, “It was a beautifully orchestrated process and I’ve only heard good things from the community about how it was handled.”

Among those lauding the work of the search committee is chair of the Faculty Assembly, Associate Professor of Writing and Literature Tyrone Shaw. “There’s certainly consensus among faculty that the process went really well,” said Shaw, “and the choice of Dr. Collins reflects that. By all accounts the board members in that group were appropriately sensitive to and supportive of the perspectives of those representing our college. I might add, the JSC contingent was spectacular in faithfully reflecting the concerns and wishes of our entire community. This was such an important undertaking, and both the process and the result are to be celebrated. Elaine Collins is an inspired choice.”

The disbanded search committee consisted of the following: Jerry Diamond, trustee and chair of the committee; Lynn Dickinson, trustee and vice-chair of the committee; Shayna Bennett, JSC student; Kathleen Brinegar, associate professor of education; Sara Kinerson, director of advising; Ken Leslie, professor of Fine Arts; Gary Moore, trustee; Martha O’Connor, chair of the VSC board of trustees; David Silverman, president/CEO of Union Bank and a JSC Alumnus; Alyssa Slaimen, (VSCSA) student trustee; Jamey Ventura, director of athletics; David Wolk, president of Castleton State College; and Tim Donovan, VSC chancellor.

When Donovan retired as chancellor on Dec. 31, the new chancellor, Jeb Spaulding, took his place on the committee.