SIU announces chancellor finalists

By Luke Nozicka, @lukenozicka

The university announced the top four candidates for the chancellor vacancy on Tuesday. 

In addition to presiding over three campuses, President Randy Dunn assumed chancellor duties following the November death of interim Chancellor Paul Sarvela — who changed campus policies to decentralize decision making during his four months in Anthony Hall. 

The 18-person chancellor search committee — chaired by Carl Flowers, director of the Rehabilitation Institute, and Meera Komarraju, chairwoman of the Department of Psychology — conducted Skype interviews with potential candidates last week. The finalists, who are listed below, will be invited to campus for open forum interviews. 

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In the SIU press release, Dunn said he hopes to have a full-time chancellor appointed by the beginning of the fall semester. 

“All of the finalists are currently sitting provosts with experience overseeing academic initiatives and serving in multiple university roles,” according to the SIU press release. “Interview dates are being finalized.”

Susan Ford

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Susan Ford, who was named interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs on Aug. 4, is the only internal candidate for the position. 

When she was appointed provost duties in August, Ford — who has worked at SIU for more than 35 years — said she expected to retire in January. 

During a phone interview Tuesday, Ford said she did not consider applying for the position until she had been nominated for it. 

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“I had a lot of conversations with my family because I had planned to move to retirement to have more time to spend with my family, including my elderly father, and they really encouraged me to go ahead and apply,” she said. “So that made me more comfortable about changing my plans.”

Ford, who chaired the search committee that recommended Chancellor Fernando M. Treviño to President Glenn Poshard in 2007, said she is fairly familiar with what the chancellor position entails.

“Because president Dunn is trying to serve both roles at the same time, it means that those of us here in Anthony Hall fill in… to try to keep things moving forward when he’s not able to be physically here and as engaged,” said Ford, who has worked with several of the campus’ chancellors. 

During the four months Ford and Sarvela worked closely together, they changed more than 20 campus policies. The two made it so retired faculty can be rehired and principal investigators of a grant can be in charge of the money they’ve been awarded.

They also decreased the cost per credit hour for military students who attend the university, from $350 to $250. Ford helped change policy so students can work up to 37.5 hours a week when school is not in session for at least five days, including summer semesters, although the 20-hour cap still applies for fall and spring semesters.

“I think we’re on a good track,” said Ford, who, if chosen for the position, would select an interim provost to serve until a full-time one is appointed. “The first order of any chancellor is going to be thinking about how we shape the university to deal with whatever new fiscal reality we have after the state decides on a budget going forward.”

Her two children graduated from SIU, which she has said gave her new perspectives about the university.

“I’ve seen the university from admissions to commencement through the perspective of a parent of two students and I got to know their friends really well when they were students on campus,” Ford said in August. “So I really got to see what happens on this campus through the lens of a student.”

She was appointed interim dean of the Graduate School in December 2012 after working as a full-time employee at the university since 1980, the same year she received her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.

She was a visiting professor in 1979, an assistant professor from 1980 to 1986, an associate professor from 1986 to 2012 and a professor in early 2012, according to an SIU press release from 2012. She was also chair of the Department of Anthropology from 2005 to 2011.

“This institution has been very good to me in my professional career and I just look forward to being able to serve it in whatever ways I can,” she said.

Sabah U. Randhawa

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Sabah U. Randhawa, who was named provost and executive vice president of Oregon State University in 2005, served twice as interim provost, once for nine months in 2002 and 2003.

In March 2014, Randhawa told the New York Times that he wanted to expand a program on his campus called Into Oregon State. According to the Times’ piece, headlined “Universities Try a Cultural Bridge to Lure Foreign Students,” the program fits international students — most from China who study engineering — “into a fast-growing and lucrative niche in higher education, of efforts to increase enrollment of foreigners with transitional programs to bridge the cultural divide — often a chasm — between what it means to be a college student in their own countries and in the United States.”

Randhawa told the Times that the program — which “prepares students to move into the university’s mainstream after a year, as Oregon State sophomores” — is a wonderful source of revenue. 

“It helps us afford to admit more resident students, offer them more aid, expand the faculty and infrastructure,” he said in the Times report. 

Oregon State has doubled its number of international students since the program began. 

“I think it’s absolutely critical for folks to know different cultures and understand the world,” Randhawa told the Times, saying his next goal is to increase the number of students who study abroad. 

“It is true today and I think it’s going to be increasingly true tomorrow that all great universities need to be international in nature,” he said in a November 2011 YouTube video published by user campaignforosu.

According to SIU’s press release, Randhawa — who earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Engineering and Technology in Pakistan in 1976  — received his doctorate degree from Arizona State University in 1983.

“He has been a faculty member at OSU for 20 years — much of it in the College of Engineering, where he headed the department of industrial and manufacturing engineering from 1993 to 1999,” according to Corvallis Gazette Times, a newspaper in Corvallis, Ore. “Randhawa was associate dean of engineering for two years before being named vice provost. He also has served as interim dean of OSU’s College of Business.”

The Daily Egyptian left a message with a secretary in Randhawa’s office, who said he was traveling Tuesday. He was not able to be reached for comment.

Pam Benoit

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Pam Benoit has served as executive vice president and provost at Ohio University since July 2009.

“Enrollment has increased from 30,000 to 38,818 students during her time as provost, and she has collaboratively contributed to the development of the university’s strategic plan and regional economic development initiatives,” according to SIU’s press release. 

In March of 2013, Benoit visited the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire — which enrolls about 11,000 students — where she was named one of five top candidates for the chancellor position, according to The Post, Ohio University’s student-run newspaper.

“For diverse students, they need to see a faculty that is diverse,” she said during an open forum interview at UW-Eau Claire for the position. “I would define a leader as someone who is able to motivate and inspire others. [Someone who] is interested in the needs of others and can balance the needs of an organization.”

“In a statement that was released last month, Benoit told The Post that women are ‘significantly underrepresented’ in the ranks of public university presidents, which is one of the reasons why she is exploring the possibility of becoming chancellor,” the paper reported on March 11, 2013. 

Benoit was one of three finalists that withdrew for unknown reasons, according to The Athens Messenger.

In a November 2009 YouTube video by user OhioUniv — when she was appointed Ohio’s provost — Benoit said the most important challenge was the university’s budget. 

“It’s a really difficult challenge because there are a lot of factors that have to do with the budget that are out of our control,” she said in the video. “A second goal is to increase the conversation with faculty, with the Faculty Senate, with other faculty, to engage faculty in the important conversations on campus.”

She served as the University of Missouri’s graduate school dean and vice provost of advanced studies from 2006 to 2009, according to SIU’s release. She was also interim dean of the school in 2005 and 2006, and served as associate and assistant dean from 2003 to 2005. She chaired the university’s Department of Communication from 1999 to 2003, the release says.

“Now as you know there are two types of roller coaster riders,” Benoit said in the 2009 welcome video. “There are the ones who grab the safety bar and keep their eyes closed pretty much the entire time. And there are those with eyes wide open and who fling up their arms and scream with delight. I have to tell you, I’m a screamer.” 

Benoit earned a master’s degree in communication from Central Michigan University and a doctorate degree in communication from Wayne State University.

“I know there are some people who when you take these kind of roles see you as a professional careerist and an administrative careerist, but I really see myself as a faculty member first,” she in the YouTube video.

The Daily Egyptian left a message with a secretary in Benoit’s office. She was not able to be reached for comment.

Lawrence Schovanec

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Lawrence Schovanec is the provost and senior vice president at Texas Tech University.

During a phone interview Tuesday, Schovanec said he was enticed by SIU because of its similarities to Texas Tech, such as a student centric environment, a nationally ranked research university and diversity.

“Anybody who takes this job has to be absolutely certain they have a passion for the school because there truly are challenges,” he said. “Part of my effectiveness is my passion for [Texas Tech] and I would have to make sure I could have those same characteristics for SIU.”

Schovanec helped bring more than $3.2 million to Texas Tech for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Even though he is hundreds of miles away from Carbondale, he is aware of the nearing budget issues.

He said it will not be easy to make cuts, but it can be done as long as the administration is transparent with the students.

“You can’t just make cosmetic changes if the cuts are severe,” he said. “But you have to take a lot of input from the stakeholders, the faculty, the students, and you need to do it in a way that doesn’t harm the fundamental core values of the university.”

He has been a faculty member at Texas Tech since 1982, and was named provost in 2014 after serving as interim provost for seven months.

Schovanec was previously the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and chairman of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Through his meetings with the search committee, Schovanec said he has found a sense of pride for SIU among the students and faculty. With that in mind, he said he looks forward to being accessible to and meeting with students to hear their concerns.

He thought long and hard about the decision to apply because loyalty is important to him, Schovanec said. He said people in his profession look at other schools often, so timing and the fit must be perfect.

“If I didn’t feel that was the case here, I wouldn’t be doing this,” he said.

Schovanec, who was born and raised in Oklahoma, said the best gift his parents ever gave him, and his 11 siblings, was a degree.

“That’s why it is so easy for me to advocate for the worth of a college degree,” he said. 

In his spare time, Schovanec, who has completed the Boston Marathon, said he enjoys running, or more of fast walking he jokingly said, five miles a day.

He earned his doctorate in mathematics from Indiana University, a master’s from Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Science degree from Phillips University in Oklahoma.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Austin Miller and Aaron Graff contributed to this report. 

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