Four finalists for the Vermont State University presidency tour Johnson, Lyndon, Castleton, and Vermont Tech campuses

Laursen via

The end of March saw the much-anticipated Vermont State University presidential tour arrive at the NVU, Castleton, and Vermont Tech campuses.

Four unique candidates with an array of different experiences and backgrounds visited the various Vermont State University campuses to speak with students and faculty in the hopes of being offered the position of President of Vermont State University.

Basement Medicine had the opportunity to speak with each candidate about what drew them to the position and what they can bring to a brand-new college system in the state of Vermont.
All candidates have extensive resumes that can be viewed by students and faculty on the “presidential search” tab in the NVU portal.

Tod Laursen
“I really admire the mission and the vision for the new Vermont State and I think I’ve seen lots of great things happening on all four campuses I’ve been visiting on this trip,” says Laursen.
When it comes to the current challenges that the Vermont State Colleges System faces, Laursen shows knowledge and a readiness to tackle each obstacle.

“The challenges that Vermont has in terms of a smaller population and an aging population, they’re not unique,” says Laursen. “There are a lot of states in the country that are that are suffering, whether it’s financial difficulties, demographic difficulties, or both. So I feel pretty confident that the kind of bold move that Vermont is making here really has the potential to be a little bit of a model for when a lot of states and areas are going to have to think about this in the next few years.

“You’ve got lots of programs on all the campuses,” says Laursen. “I think those programs that are successful and are unique to one campus, that’s kind of the easy part, right? You just leave those in place and then figure out over time how they can be enhanced. But I’m aware that when you look at the system as a whole, you’ll have multiple English programs, history programs. It’s going to be a single university, so you have to think about how to bring those people together on those campuses.”

Laursen has worked in a previous merger, so he believes he has valuable experience to bring to the table for Vermont State University.

“I’ve overseen a merger before, so I know painstaking that work is,” says Laursen. “I had the opportunity when I was overseas, in Abu Dhabi, to both be the founding president of a university and, a few years later, to oversee a merger between that university and two others,” says Laursen.

Summers via Alli McLaughlin

Greg Summers
From 2011 to 2021, Summers held the position of Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. In 2021, he stepped down from that position to allow the new chancellor to select his own academic leader. Since then, he has worked as a Special Assistant to the Chancellor at Stevens Point and maintains a significant role at the university implementing the school’s new strategic plans.

“I’m motivated by a couple of things,” says Summers. “I really believe in public higher education, and I know these institutions are jeopardized right now. I want to save them; I want to be a part of that solution.”

Summers has lots of experience implementing new strategies to improve the operations and services at Stevens Point. He feels that this experience makes him a strong candidate to lead Vermont State University in its formative years. He also has a Ph. D in U.S. history and a wealth of experience as a professor of history.

“I think the colleges have already done a lot, and I don’t come bearing magical solutions,” says Summers. “I think my role as the institution leader would be to help facilitate a process that is thoughtful, well designed, open and transparent; set some really aspirational long-term goals that we all agree on, and then make sure that we have a good project management backwards process to get us from here to there. Advocating for the system to make sure to carry on.”

Vermont also speaks to Summers, who hails from a place that has much in common with the Green Mountain State. “It’s a role that I think I’m just well-positioned to do well in,” says Summers. “I will say I’m particularly drawn to Vermont, from afar. Having spent most of my professional life in Wisconsin, I’m used to the small town, the rural landscape. A lot of the challenges that Vermont faces are challenges that we have in Wisconsin, and I believe that the role that universities play in our communities are very similar to each other.”

Edmondson via

Jacqueline Edmondson
Edmondson visited the Johnson campus with a wealth of experience under her belt. She possesses a Ph. D in education with over a decade of experience as a professor. Edmondson began pursuing administrative positions and has most recently held positions as Associate Vice President and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, at Pennsylvania State University (June 2013 –May 2017), and is now the Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer at Penn State Greater Allegheny since June 2017.

“I’m really drawn to the vision and mission that will be Vermont State University,” says Edmondson, “and I think we have a unique opportunity to be the leading rural public education institution of higher education in the country, that is because of the footprint of Vermont State University. I also think it’s because of the interesting programs from technical programs to liberal arts programs, and programs that are professional studies and in the social sciences. There’s a really incredible opportunity to create something new, and that doesn’t often happen in higher education. We’re creating a new university, and we’re doing it by putting students first and by ensuring that we have a connection to the communities in the state of Vermont.”

Edmondson feels that her previous experience would serve her well in a new position that would ask her to unify the somewhat fractured Vermont State College system. “I worked across 20 campus locations at Penn State on curriculum, program review, accreditation, and special programs,” said Edmondson. “Then, I moved into the Office of Undergraduate Education where I was Associate Vice President and Associate Dean, and again, I was responsible for curriculum across 20 campus locations, and we had to work on students’ accessibility and affordability. In 2017, I was asked to go to the Penn State Greater Allegheny campus to serve as the Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer. The campus had been through a period of time where there were some leadership challenges. I was asked to go there and was literally asked to go put my arms around people and to bring them together to bring changes to the campus and to connect the campus to the community there.”

Grewal via

Parwinder Grewal
The third candidate to visit campus, Parwinder Grewal, holds a Ph. D in Zoology from the Imperial College in London, England. Perhaps more importantly, he has very relative administrative experience as the Founding Dean of the College of Sciences at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (2015-2018). Grewal then moved on to hold the title of Executive Vice President for Research, Graduate Studies and New Program Development at the same university.

“It’s been great visiting and meeting with so many great people,” says Grewal. “It’s been amazing to talk to staff, faculty groups, and students. Each campus, I had the opportunity to meet with different stakeholders, and that has been amazing. I have received questions related to their concerns, also questions related to how we can realize the new vision of Vermont State University. It has been a very enriching experience.”

The challenge of creating something entirely new is attractive to Grewal. Vermont State University presents a unique opportunity to merge virtually all of a state’s public universities into a single entity.

“The biggest attraction to me is to have the opportunity to build a new university that can be a leader in public education nationally,” says Grewal. “We have the opportunity to be a university that is dedicated to diversity of students, not just in color and ethnic background, but also students who come from very difficult economic conditions and students who come from far-away, rural areas. The opportunities here are immense.”

Grewal also recognizes that each of the Vermont State Colleges bring more to the state than just the education of their students.

“The vision for me is to realize and build a unique model and set the tone for higher education in the US to change,” says Grewal. “We want to take this seriously and recognize that the communities that they are in, these universities become anchors economically and culturally. Economic transformation, social transformation, transformation in terms of the arts, transformation in terms of environmental quality, and so on.”