Left to right: Could former USF professor of Art+Architecture and Thacher Gallery director Rev. Thomas Lucas, S.J., USF Provost Jennifer Turpin, or St. Ignatius director Rev. Gerdenio (Sonny) Manuel, S.J. be the next university president? (Photo Courtesy of Jasmine Bautista /Foghorn)

Guess Who Our Next President Will Be?

An Update on the USF Presidential Search

UPDATE: Fr. Thomas Lucas S.J. wrote to the Foghorn in regards to the graphic accompanying this story to clarify that he is not in the running to be the next USF president. We apologize to anyone we might have mislead with the graphic. It is a playful take on the presidential search based on student and faculty predictions and hopes.

The outreach stage of the presidential search has been completed, and a list of a dozen potential candidates has been made. Representatives of the Presidential Search Committee (PSC), Chuck Smith and Teresa Win, gave a presentation on their progress at last week’s student senate meeting.

 Win remained tight-lipped when asked to name potential candidates. “We have about a dozen candidates in our quarter-finalists pool, and all you’re getting out of me is that more than one is a Jesuit,” she said.

As of last Tuesday, the PSC had narrowed down the list of quarter-finalists, and they will be interviewing these contenders throughout the month of February. In March, the presidential search committee plans to recommend three finalists to the Board of Trustees, who will make the final decision.

Will It Go to a Jesuit?

“We have changed the bylaws so that the president could be either a layperson (a person that is not a member of the clergy) or a Jesuit priest, a man or a woman,” Smith said.

Smith and Win said that they couldn’t limit their selection to solely Jesuit priests, because they are looking for the best person for the job. They also explained that the Jesuit philosophy itself, especially in regards to social justice, called for the PSC to open their doors to a diverse pool of candidates.

To further convey why the next USF president wouldn’t necessarily have to be a Jesuit, Smith asked the group of about 30 student senators if anyone was part of the Jesuit order and no one raised their hands. “That’s why,” Smith remarked.

Of the 28 national Jesuit universities, eight have non-Jesuit presidents.

“You dont have to have a Jesuit priest [as President] to preserve the Catholic mission,” Smith said.

The Qualities of a Leader of a Modern Jesuit University

So which factors did the search committee consider most highly? Smith and Win listed quite a few considerations, which included a commitment to the Jesuit mission, developing a sustainable financial model, striving for academic excellence, engaging our alumni, raising the stature of this university in our community, and growing the value of a USF education.

“There is a desire to be THE university of this great city,” Win said of the feedback they’ve gotten from students, staff, faculty, and alumni that were involved in the presidential search.

USF contracted Isaacson Miller, a presidential search firm that the university has used before to recruit deans and vice presidents, to assist in the USF presidential search. Isaacson Miller has previously helped find the top administration heads for Amherst College, Claremont McKenna College, Dartmouth University, and John Hopkins University.

Administrators Anonymous

The PSC’s list of potential candidates remains confidential, but that hasn’t stopped students from making predictions.

“I can see [the PSC] looking towards Silicon Valley for people with more business experience and connections in those innovative fields ” said Madeline Meninger, a junior politics student.

“I hope the next president cares about making USF affordable and accessible rather than a financial black hole,” said Nureen Khadr, a sophmore international studies student.

Elizabeth Hernandez, president of Latinas Unidas, said that she wishes the PSC picked someone who is open to connecting with students.  “It’d be cool to have someone who interacts with the students more. The president should be a student ally of sorts.”

Hernandez also said that the new president should work on helping students express their cultural diversity. “We have students of different cultural backgrounds but we don’t do enough to embrace the cultural differences that exist on campus.”

Kiefer Cropper, a sophmore biology student, said that she wants to see a person of color or a woman as president. “I’m sick of these white men.”

Madeline Vanden Branden contributed to the reporting.

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