The search committee for the 17th president of Goshen College met for the first time October 11-12 to set a timeframe and to review the Statement of Arrangements among the three entities invested in the search. The search committee includes representatives of Goshen College’s Board of Directors, Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) and GC faculty.
Over the course of the next six months, this group will continue to meet monthly to compile lists of candidates, conduct interviews and eventually find a replacement for President Jim Brenneman after he steps down in June 2017.
The committee is a diverse mix of four members of the GC board, four members of MEA, three Goshen College employees, a GC student and a Goshen community member. Each element of the group represents a different component of what this decision means for the educational institution, the Mennonite denomination and the Goshen community at large.
While she hasn’t been a part of a presidential search before, Launa Leftwich, dean of students, has been a part of many hiring processes at the college and expressed gratitude for being involved in this particular process.
“Selecting a new employee is the most strategic decision we make in higher education,” said Leftwish. “I’m grateful for the investment and support of the GC community as we seek the next president.”
The chair of the search committee is Faith Penner, a GC board member who has been involved in both education and the Mennonite church. Some other committee members also have presidential search experience, including Carlos Romero, the executive director of MEA.
Along with Leftwich, Goshen College faculty on the committee include Beverly Lapp, professor of music and Ryan Sensenig, professor of biology and environmental science.
“Our job on the committee is to represent the various views regarding what we’d each like to see in the next president,” said Sensenig.
All members of the committee will get the opportunity to present their opinions and those of the groups they represent, both verbally and through survey throughout the course of the process. Sensenig particularly highlighted how the faculty component needs to hear from students so they can accurately represent their interests.
Since the first meeting, the committee appointed Dona Park, a senior art and history major as the student representative. Park, a member of Student Senate, also brings experience from completing the Ministry Inquiry Program and working with the peacemaking center ReconciliAsian.
Leftwich also emphasized the challenge of balancing transparency and confidentially in the search process.
“We learned in the first meeting that most of the candidates have successful careers and typically are not looking to be a college president,” she said. “Successful applicants are often shoulder-tapped to apply and do not wish to jeopardize their current employment. Thus, the search committee has to be extremely committed to confidentiality within the process.”
Members of the committee are asked to keep many facets of the discussions in their meetings private in order to protect the candidates’ privacy and make sure the process runs smoothly.
In the first meeting, the committee set up listening sessions to get opinions from other campus groups. They would like to give all the opportunity to weigh in on what qualities they would like to see in their next president. In order to guide the work of the search committee, Leftwich stressed the importance of hearing all perspectives regarding the qualifications and priorities for the next President. A session with faculty and staff will take place on Tuesday, November 1 at 4:00 p.m. in the Administration Building, room 28. A second listening for faculty/staff will take place at 11:00 a.m. in the Koinonia room in the Church-Chapel on Wednesday, November 2. Student Senate will host a listening session for all students at 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday, November 2 in the Administration Building, room 20.
The committee is also looking to set up a listening session for community members, the mayor and other city officials.
While the search process is constrained to difficulty of holding meeting with representatives who come from all across the country and scheduling interviews with various candidates, the committee hopes the move forward efficiently and productively throughout the course of the next six months.