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Faculty, Students Weigh in on ECU Chancellor Search

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ECU News Services
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The process to find East Carolina University’s next chancellor has begun. Several forums focused on students, faculty, and alumni have been held to find out the qualities the new head of Eastern North Carolina’s largest university should be. A total of seven public forums have taken place already statewide.  Chris Thomas attended two Greenville based sessions and has this.

The forums, which began Nov. 30, will contribute to an overall university profile for prospective chancellor candidates. The target date for the profile’s completion is Dec. 16. The profile will have three components: a description of the university, the community it serves, and what it wants from the next chancellor.

“Yes, I thought it was very positive, too. I liked the idea that there were multiple perspectives that seem to come to the same conclusions.”

That was ECU’s Dr. Patricia Anderson.

“And I thought it was really interesting at the end when Dr. (Virginia) Hardy (Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at ECU) asked what were the three, main items that had come up…those were quickly decided and there wasn’t much disagreement around the room.”

The top priorities, according to attendees at the forum, Dec. 1 at the 4 p.m. meeting at Mendenhall Student Center were: strong leadership, a background in higher education, and a person who is a strong communicator.

“Chancellor Ballard has done a good job of providing leadership in…a wide variety of ways, especially in the last 8 years or so, where we’ve faced so many budget cuts and he has worked tirelessly on our behalf.” 

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Credit ECU News Services
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  In 2004, Ballard took over a university going through a growth spurt. According to data from the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors, ECU experienced the largest increase in enrollment – by headcount – the only school in the UNC system that had an increase of more than 1,000 students.

Last school year, a campus-wide census reported a total of more than 27,500 students, an increase of about 21 percent from just from Ballard’s first, full, academic year as chancellor a decade prior.

Now the search is on for his replacement and university officials are starting the process from within by talking to faculty and students.

Some professors wanted to know if there would be room and resources enough at the university as the march toward 30,000 enrolled students continues without sign of stopping.

“Finding someone who doesn’t get it, doesn’t get who we are and what we do and how a university like this functions…that could be a real problem.”

That was Dr. John Stiller, chair for the Faculty Senate.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s a big concern. As we grow, in order to continue to deliver or help us actually improve the quality of instruction, really means having the people, well trained, committed people, and enough of them and enough resources for them to carry out those missions.”

As Chair of the Faculty Senate, Stiller leads and moderates senate meetings and represents the interests of his peers to other university officials.

“We don’t have faculty we used to have, so faculty have lost their jobs. Faculty positions that have become vacant by retirement or people moving on are not always filled, so we lose faculty who were or could be teaching classes that they are not.”

Staving off inflated class sizes and ensuring research and teaching resources remain at the fingertips of instructors were on their minds when they gathered to discuss desirable candidates for the chancellor’s position.

During the forum series, faculty expressed concerns over the General Assembly and its management of the 16-school coalition that is the UNC system, saying the next chancellor needs to work with legislators and fight for the institution.

For the past 10 years, budget cuts to the state’s public colleges and universities have been reliable and, at times, deep. In 2011, reeling from the Great Recession, state lawmakers cut more than $414 million to the UNC system. ECU lost $49.1 million according to a release from the university.

Stiller said school faculty wants their next leader to fulfill an array of roles and be the bridge between the manifold facets of the university’s day to day work – from the General Assembly to the school’s board of trustees to university’s staff and students.

Dr. Patricia Anderson, long-time professor in the university’s original component – the college of education – said she hopes the next chancellor will have experience in failure.

“The idea of ‘we’re all perfect’ and someone who is that type ‘A’ personality who never understands what it’s like to try and then fail. I’m not interested in work with or for someone like that. I’m interested in working for somebody who knows what it’s like to put your heart into something and have it not work out the way that you want, but then figure out, in result of that, there are better ways, there are other ways, to do what I want to do. I think that’s what we need in a leader here.”

Still others maintain they want a chancellor whose greatest presence would be on campus, specifically in classrooms and with students. Stiller said it would be nice to have a chancellor that takes special care to reach out to students. A journalism professor at the university said he conducts a project with his students where they ask their peers who the chancellor is; a project that often brings shrugs and puzzled looks.   

“And that’s, I think, more of a function of just the size and how many layers of administrative interactions there are before you get to the chancellor if you’re a rank and file student or faculty or staff member.”

Students were also given an opportunity to weigh in on the search process. Two student forums, one held on the main campus, the other at Brody School of Medicine about two miles west. Turnout for the latter was spotty – three students, including Student Government Association president Mark Matulewicz, attended.

Matulewicz said turnout was much higher on the main campus and said students put a high priority on fostering an inclusive, diverse environment at ECU, something that’s already present and healthy on campus.   

The final forum – geared specifically to Greenville and Pitt County Residents – will be held Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the East Carolina Heart Institute.

Stiller said the school hopes to have Ballard’s replacement lined up before the chancellor’s last day – July 1, 2016.