Local or national?: WNC president search discussed

Chancellor Dr. Thom Reilly listens to public comments on whether an acting or interim president of Western Nevada College should be appointed following the resignation of President Chester Burton.

Chancellor Dr. Thom Reilly listens to public comments on whether an acting or interim president of Western Nevada College should be appointed following the resignation of President Chester Burton.

Community members and faculty met with representatives of the Nevada System of Higher Education on Monday to debate whether the next Western Nevada College president should be interim or acting, and if a national search is necessary.

To gather public opinion is the first step of the process to recruit potential candidates, according to NSHE Title 2, Chapter 1, Section 1.5.4. The public’s recommendations were addressed to the Board of Regents after the meeting.

Many of the attendees — including members of Churchill County Commissioners, WNC Institutional Advisory Committee, and Foundation and Associated Students of Western Nevada — expressed mixed opinions whether if an interim or acting position better benefits both the college and community as a whole.

An interim president serves one to three years and is elected by the board, with the possibility of ultimately becoming president. But, according to NSHE Chancellor Thom Reilly and Board Chairman Kevin J. Page, it’s not a given role, nor is it followed by a search.

If an acting president is appointed, a national search is usually followed; this process isn’t required but is common, and is a decision made by the regents.

But in the code, an acting president isn’t eligible for permanent position, as the title could discourage other potential applicants nationwide.

Former President Chet Burton, also served as interim president.

Burton resigned in August when he accepted a new role with the NSHE and Mark Ghan is the Officer in Charge until the vacancy is filled.

Some attendees agreed an interim president would be a better fit for WNC to keep current elements on the table.

“We’re on the right track and we need the best person to take over the reigns of what’s going on right now,” said Rob Hooper of WNC’s Institutional Advisory Council and Northern Nevada Development Authority director. “We could have used another year with Chet as WNC is at a turning point with his efforts. I would hate to see that interrupted.”

With that, some prefer an interim president who’s connected or a part of the college, as well as familiar with the local community and impacts campus groups.

“We’re the highest industrial base in the state and we need someone to support that,” said Maxine Nietz, Carson City businesswoman. “It’s also important to have someone who helps unify the campus with sports, music, and drama courses to make the campus more than just a class-to-class perspective.”

Lupe Ramirez, assistant to the Dean and Coordinator of Latino Student Outreach, hopes for an interim president who also is a leader in diversity.

She said the WNC campus is about 24 percent Latino.

“We support the Hispanic community and help each other in academic success,” said Lorenzo Vicente, a WNC student and member of Latino Cohort group. “We need someone who can greatly achieve what needs to be done and meet the needs for students.”

However, some felt an interim president would limit options rather than broaden horizons at the college, as an acting position may lead to a national search for a permanent president.

Specifically, community members including faculty hope the acting president also would be experienced in student services and relationships with tech industries.

WNC Philosophy instructor Susan Priest said the new role will affect some of this academic year, as Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities will be evaluating WNC in April 2018.

“We need an acting president and national search,” she said. “It puts us in a position and we deserve a national search. It’s a huge deal in our accreditation cycle.”

Although a national search is appealing to some, the funds to conduct it will be costly, estimated at $85,000 - $100,000. The search could take six months or longer, but the goal is to select a president before the academic calendar year of August 2018 begins.

According to the NSHE code, if the Board determines to conduct a national search, a Regents’ Presidential Search Committee will be assembled.

Consisting of four to six members from the Board of Regents appointed by the Chair of the Board, members will participate in meetings and interviews of the nominees, and provide recommendations to the full Board of Regents for consideration and appointment to the position.

After public comment is reviewed by the Board of Regents, the next meeting in the process will take place.


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