Vice president of academic affairs search intensifies

Travis Perry

Finding the next vice president of academic affairs has been like searching for a needle in a haystack, and James Concannon III said it will be difficult to find someone as sharp as Ron Wasserstein.

Whittling the applicants down from a field of over 40 to five has proven difficult, as all have been qualified, said Concannon, law professor. Chair of the 15-person committee charged with finding and suggesting a final hire for the position, Concannon said they’ve harnessed the diversity within the committee to narrow the field of candidates.

“From the very first day that the search committee met, [Jerry Farley, university president,] made it very clear that his goal was to hire the best person we could find,” said Concannon.

From students and alumni to faculty and administrators, the committee runs the gamut of people who will be affected by the position change. Faculty Senate president Russ Jacobs contacted other faculty senate presidents he knew that were associated with applicants, and former Washburn Student Government Association president Josh Shald did the same at the student level.

“What we’re really looking for is a person with a vision and the breadth of experience that [is necessary],” said Concannon.

Of the five remaining candidates, two are already holding positions on campus: Donna LaLonde, math professor and dean of honors, and Gordon McQuere, dean of the college of arts and sciences. LaLonde was unavailable for comment at time of publication.

An Ichabod since the beginning, Wasserstein was an undergraduate at Washburn, returned as a faculty member and finally achieved his current position, giving him a unique insight into the university and the goals ahead of it. Both LaLonde and McQuere have a similar situation with their current positions, which gives them some kind of insight, if only slightly, over the three other candidates. However, Concannon said the committee wasn’t concerned with whether to recommend someone from within Washburn or not as much as they were simply looking for the best fit for the job.

McQuere agreed with this statement, saying there were advantages to being on the university and off in what they could bring to the position. A goal McQuere had in mind, should he be chosen, would be to increase the relationship between the university’s major and minor programs, as well as to make the general education experience more coherent.

“Right now there’s nothing that prepares a student for the transformational experience,” said McQuere, citing an example of something he believed needed some changing.

He added that he thought there was nothing wrong with Washburn’s programs; rather he would simply like to seem them continue to grow and become even greater. McQuere stated he wouldn’t pretend like he would be able to be exactly like Wasserstein, saying nobody could ever be exactly like him.

“Quite honestly, Ron Wasserstein is going to be a very hard act to follow,” said Concannon.