Chancellor candidate Susan Stapleton speaks to SIU community at open forum

By Kallie Cox, News Editor

Susan Stapleton, a candidate for chancellor, discussed enrollment, diversity, research and shared governance with the SIU community during Friday’s open forum.

Stapleton grew up in Pennsylvania and was the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

Stapleton earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry/ cellular biology from Juniata College in Huntington, Pennsylvania and went on to earn her Ph.D in biochemistry at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She has since worked at Western Michigan University since 1990 as a professor, associate dean, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs and special assistant to the provost.

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Vivian Hardison, Director of Disability Support Services, represented the SIU Diversity council at the forum and asked Stapleton how she would promote equity, diversity and inclusion on campus.

“I found a 2017 campus climate [at SIU] that indicated there was a need to focus on cultural sensitivity, respect for individuals of color, civility and safe spaces,” Stapleton said. “I would be interested in knowing the efforts that have been continued to address those concerns and how we can continue those efforts in the future.”

Stapleton said at her university she has promoted the hiring of diverse faculty and staff, worked on family friendly policies, sought and obtained grants to broaden the participation of individuals who pursue STEM careers, served on the university gender equity committee, established the first diversity council in arts and sciences and implemented an equity and anti-bias training program for members of search committees.

Hardison asked Stapleton what she would do to welcome international students to SIU in an ever-changing world environment.

Stapleton said the COVID-19 pandemic will make it difficult to recruit international students in the short term and SIU should promote its online programming to students and ensure that the programming information can be found in their language.

“For international recruitment we need to ensure material is translatable into their various languages, that our university and program rankings are visibly and proudly displayed, that we showcase the global and international activities that are highlighted on our campus and that students engage in,” Stapleton said. “It’s important to listen to the stories, to tell the stories of the success of the students who have come to SIU Carbondale.”

April Teske, who represents the Faculty Senate on the Search Committee, asked Stapleton how she plans to boost enrollment.

Stapleton said SIU should increase face to face recruitment efforts with students and families in the region and that the university should employ technology more broadly. She said it is important to track SIU’s analytics and to know where students are going if they don’t choose SIU.

Stapleton said recruitment efforts should involve SIU’s various departments and include those on campus who are not necessarily experts on recruitment and retention, but who know how to use social media and what their department needs.

Elizabeth Cheek, Vice President of the Civil Service Council, asked Stapleton about her approach to shared governance.

“I believe in the role of shared governance and shared responsibility as the route to excellence in education,” Stapleton said. 

Stapleton said as a faculty member she was very involved with the Faculty Senate and as an administrator she said she worked carefully with various councils and constituency groups when creating policies. She was part of the faculty union and said she has worked closely with unions during negotiations as an administrator.

“It’s really about the role of shared governance, the importance of shared governance and how we come together with those shared responsibilities to enhance our institution,” Stapleton said.

Stapleton said one of the roles of a university is to be a good community partner as well and she said throughout her career she has collaborated with community leaders, religious leaders and school administrators in the community. 

Cheek asked Stapleton about her thoughts on sustainability.

“I think sustainability is so very very important and I’d take it beyond the campus and the region but to the world,” Stapleton said. “Every action that we do has some consequence associated with it.”

Stapleton said she has promoted energy conservation, moving her university to single stream recycling and moving the university away from investments in fossil fuel companies.

“I don’t know if that has been done at SIU Carbondale but it is something I think we would need to be taking stock in, is not only are we good stewards, but what are our actions and how do they promote sustainability for the region, but also for the world,” Stapleton said.

Stapleton said she understands the challenges many students are facing, she said she knows what it is like to be a first generation college student and to balance work and education.

“I’ve taught at the undergraduate and graduate level, welcomed students into my research laboratory, published articles with them, written and obtained grants, directed training programs and innovated the curriculum,” Stapleton said. “I’ve created support programs, mentoring structures and supported a diverse campus community.”

Stapleton said she helped lead strategic planning efforts and created data tools to inform decision making. She said her roles have helped her to understand the challenges of higher education particularly in the midwest.

“I understand and embrace the power of the team approach in creating a solid and winning plan,” Stapleton said. “In leveraging our strengths and taking a few risks, in learning from our past and others’ to make better choices for the future and in developing, supporting and empowering each other to reach the full potential, I truly believe that together at SIU Carbondale we will become the education and innovation destination.”

The full forum can be viewed here.

News Editor Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieECox.

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