Emma Coffey ~ Staff Writer
Since April of 2019, there has been an ongoing search for the next University of Lynchburg president. According to the University of Lynchburg website, the first rounds of interviews for presidential candidates occurred in October, and the final interviews will happen in November.
Vice President and Dean for Student Development, Dr. Aaron Smith, who acts as an ex-official member is serving in the diversity and inclusion role to ensure an equitable process on the search committee.
Dr. Smith said, “The search committee serves as representation of the community members on campus who will help to send a recommendation for our next president to the Board of Trustees.”
Dr. Smith noted that the group is made up of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and Board of Trustee representatives. While the search committee sends a recommendation to the Board of Trustees for the next president, the board will make the final decision.
According to Dr. Smith, the new president will be announced through an all-campus communication and an exact date cannot be given, but it is close. Smith said, “I think that the search committee has done a wonderful job in collaborating with the search firm to ensure that we vet top notch candidates for this position. I think we have some very strong candidates.”
He said, “I think Dr. Garren exhibits many of the qualities that our campus has needed over the last 18 years. In this time of change, for our institution and higher education, I think that a good presidential candidate needs a solid vision for the future, they need an understanding of our history and culture here, they need to understand the changing landscape of higher education, and they need to understand how to navigate positioning the University of Lynchburg to be among the top private liberal arts institutions in our region.”
According to Dr. Smith, the new president needs to understand the current climate from a student perspective in order to make the campus a better place. He said that they have a responsibility to help the new president understand what the student-centered environment feels like. He also wants the new president to listen to the voice of the students and take their ideas into consideration. Dr. Smith said, “If the new president is willing to do that, I think this campus will continue to improve.”
Dr. Smith also said, “I would give the new president the same advice I give to most people I talk to, including students, faculty, and staff, which is to ask questions and listen to the responses. One can learn a lot from listening. They will be able to make solid decisions once they have listened to those who are a part of this community.”
Nathaniel Pierce is a student representative on the search committee and is a voice for the student opinion in regards to the next university president. He has been part of the process ever since Dr. Garren announced his retirement.
In Pierce’s opinion the search is going well. Pierce said, “I believe the next president should work with the faculty and staff currently in place to learn the culture of the campus as well as well as work with the Board of Trustees to continue pursuing and completing the goals of Vision 2020+.”
Pierce also said, “Transparency where possible will go far and being present on campus is key to success here.”
Grace Smith, a first year student, said, “I would love a very open-minded president who can see both sides of arguments.”
Smith wants the new president to make appearances on campus, that way students can know that the president is a real person and not someone who sits behind a desk. She also said, “Do not be nervous about coming here because all of my experiences in Lynchburg have been positive and accepting, so do not worry. Focus on making the campus a better place and this campus will make you a better person.”