Students round robin with potential candidates

Claire Higgins, News editor

The first two candidates in the running for Northern Kentucky University’s next president recently visited the campus to meet with students, faculty and staff and community members about what they would bring to the table.

Jonathan Gibralter, president of Frostburg State University in Maryland, visited NKU March 28 and 29 and David Eisler, president of Ferris State University in Michigan, was on campus April 2 and 3.
During the two days on campus, each candidate spent time in forums with stakeholder groups, including students to provide an opportunity to ask questions, learn about their backgrounds and to talk on a more personal and casual level.

Gibralter met with about 20 students March 28 in the Otto M. Budig Theater. He informed the students of his top priorities for the university, which included brand identity, retention rates and improving academic rates from high school students or incoming students.

He also highlighted alumni relationships as being an important and strong part of every university, as well as educating students on the importance and severity of binge drinking.
In his experiences, Gibralter has done many studies and increased alcohol education at Frostburg because of the dangers of high-risk drinking.

“I have nothing against alcohol at all,” he said. “But there are students drinking themselves to death. I think there’s a lot we can do to educate people about safe and responsible drinking.”
The candidate, who has been in the higher education field for 26 years at various colleges and universities, told the group that being president at NKU would be the “defining moment in my professional career.” He also said that he hopes to stay at the university until he officially retires.

Gibralter said he also believes he is a good fit for NKU because of his support for not only Greek life, but all students. “I put students out front; they’re part of every conversation we have,” he said.

“It’s not just rhetoric for me, but you guys are why we’re here, you are the future and you are the reason we come to work everyday.”

For him, it is all about personal attention to students. At Frostburg, there is currently a program where Gibralter advises and mentors 12 students who receive direct access to him.
After Gibralter’s visit, the second finalist made his way from Ferris State University in Michigan to talk with students, faculty and staff about what he can bring to the university. David Eisler, currently the president of Ferris State, met with students April 2, also in the Otto M. Budig Theater.

Although filled with many of NKU’s SGA members — President Dustin Robinson required the student senate to attend the forum before their own weekly meeting — the crowd was bigger than Gibralter’s, reaching around 45 students.

Eisler, who has an educational background in music and clarinet performance, informed students about the connection between music and administration. He compared a university to a ensemble, “everybody needs to be on the same page … you need to get people to work together for a common goal, and in that experience you help build a remarkable organization.”
Throughout his meeting with students, Eisler focused on a 3-year plan that he could set for NKU. In this plan, he included continued growth in the quality and success of the students, economic growth and a “whole new inspiration” with the transition to Division I, and continued work with K-12 students and civic engagement.

Eisler said one of the main reasons he applied for the president position at NKU was current President James Votruba, and that this would be the only other university he would work at.
“If you were to look for two words for why I’m here, they are ‘President Votruba’ … I’m incredibly impressed with the work he has done here,” he said. “What I was looking for was a place that I could follow someone like that and continue the work that he did, a place that can continue to grow with your civic engagement.”

To continue receiving student feedback, Eisler passed out paper and had students answer three questions: What are the three things you cherish most about NKU? What are the three biggest challenges facing NKU? And, If you were the next president, what are the three most important things you would do?

The students who attended each forum filled out rating sheets and comment cards, which will help the Presidential Search and Screening Committee and the Board of Regents make their final decision on who will be NKU’s next president. According to the search and screening committee’s timeline, the winner will be announced in April.
The next and final candidate, Geoffrey Mearns, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Cleveland State University, will visit NKU’s campus April 9 and 10. The student forum is at 3:25 p.m. on April 9 in the Otto M. Budig Theater.

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