Second chancellor finalist arrives

By Gus Bode

The pursuit of SIUC’s next leader continues today as the second of four chancellor finalists meets with the campus community.

Sue Hammersmith, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, arrived on campus Sunday afternoon, beginning an extensive three-day visit in which the administrator will be paraded around to various constituency groups.

The SIUC position is at least the third post Hammersmith has applied for this year. She was a candidate for the president post at Eastern Illinois University – similar to the position of chancellor at SIUC – before being beat out by Bill Perry of Texas A’M April 10.

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Hammersmith is also a finalist for the president job at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. The search there has been delayed as officials are seeking a third finalist.

Chancellor search chairwoman Susan Ford said it makes sense that finalists would also seek employment elsewhere.

“(Other institutions) probably see what we see – that these are talented individuals,” she said.

Hammersmith, who met with various administrators and toured the campus Sunday, did not immediately return requests for comment left with the search committee.

When speaking at EIU, Hammersmith stressed the importance of being visible to students, saying she would don a T-shirt and help students with move-in day if she was named president, according to the Daily Eastern News.

Hammersmith has held the No. 2 post at UWGB since 2002, and previously held dean jobs at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

Ford said Hammersmith’s work at these largely undergraduate institutions interested the committee.

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“Basically what she brings is a lot of experience and concern for students and the student experience and student life,” Ford said. “She appears to have done a number of things that really have improved student well being in the places she’s been, which as a net result also improves recruitment and retention.”

According to the U.S. News and World Report, UWGB has an undergraduate enrollment of 5,622, compared with SIUC’s 16,697 undergraduate student body.

Ford said Hammersmith also stressed a desire to involve the local community to develop a close interpersonal working relationship between the city and university.

“Since these are things we want to continue to improve here, the fact that she has somewhat of a track record of doing that there was something we appreciated,” Ford said.

Ford said she does not know Hammersmith’s specific vision for SIUC because it was not a topic of conversation in semifinalists’ interviews last month.

“We decided that asking them what they wanted to do in the future would get a lot of platitudes without much knowledge behind them, and so instead we decided to focus on asking them specifics about the kinds of things they had done and their style of leadership,” she said.

Now that the finalists are chosen, they have more specific information to deal with and determine a specific plan, Ford said. She said this vision would probably be put to the test in public forums held today and Tuesday for students, faculty and staff.

Finalist John Frederick discussed his personal vision in the forums last week, but the turnout at some forums was disappointing, Ford said.

She said she expected the low turnout because it has been the same in similar searches, including when former Chancellor Walter Wendler came in 2001.

Ford encouraged people to come to the forums and fill out evaluations of the candidates to help in the process but also see for themselves a potential SIUC leader.

“She’s got a lot of vitality, a lot of energy, for higher education,” she said. “I would like people to experience that and not just see her on paper in terms of looking at her resume and vitae, but also meet her one on one.”

If chosen, Hammersmith would be the second female chancellor in SIUC history. History professor Jo Ann Argersinger, the first female chancellor, was fired after only 11 months on the job in 1999.

The controversial firing led to a wrongful termination and discrimination lawsuit, which was dismissed for a lack of sufficient evidence.

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