Presidential Search Committee begins candidate interviews

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Last Thursday, the Presidential Search Committee sent an email to students and faculty with an update on the search for the college’s next president. The new president will permanently replace former President Rebecca Chopp, who accepted an offer to be the new Chancellor at the University of Denver last May, and current Interim President Constance Hungerford. Salem Shuchman ’84, chair of the committee and member of the Board of Managers, sent the email on the committee’s behalf and outlined the progress the committee has made since the search officially began in October 2014. The search committee expects to announce the new president, who will assume the position next fall, later this semester.

In the email, Shuchman emphasized the importance of the community’s involvement in the search process, citing the numerous faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumni who have offered their own suggestions for potential candidates. Last month, the committee began holding interviews after assembling a large pool of applicants. Shuchman remarked that the next stage of the process is highly confidential out of respect for the candidates. He did not disclose how many candidates had been interviewed so far or the total number of candidates currently under consideration.

In an email to the Phoenix, Shuchman said that the biggest challenge so far has been the time commitment required of the committee members, who even met with candidates over winter break. Asked about the qualities that the committee seeks, Shuchman referred to the presidential search handbook (available online), which states that candidates should show dedication to the values of the college, such as academic rigor, collaboration and leadership, while also being flexible and willing to lead the college through unforeseen difficulties. The committee also expressed the hope that the next president will have “a keen intellect, exceptional communication skills, the ability to innovate,” and strong fund-raising abilities, alluding to the importance of the next president as the college’s representative to the outside world.

“[The search process] has definitely focused on the mission of the college, Shuchman said. “For many of the candidates, [the Quaker testimonies] are some of the things that are attracting them to this position.”

According to the presidential search website, the next president will need to be able to “provide leadership” and “communicate Swarthmore’s vision” to the broader Swarthmore community, as well as “increase the visibility of Swarthmore in articulating the impact of a liberal arts education.” It did not mention specifics as to what these qualities would require from the next president. Most likely, the continuing implementation of current projects will be the highest priority on the next president’s agenda, among them the Strategic Plan and Campus Master Plan that Chopp initiated during her presidency. Environmental sustainability was not mentioned as a possible challenge for the next president to address, though the recent action by the Board of Managers to invest $12 million of the college’s endowment to address climate change might signal that the issue will be discussed further in the coming years.

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