WLU President’s Finalist Kelly Ryan Visits Campus | News, sports, jobs

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Indiana University’s interim Southeast Chancellor Kelly Ryan, one of four finalists for president of West Liberty University, speaks to students and faculty Monday afternoon.

WEST LIBERTY Indiana University’s interim Southeast Chancellor Kelly Ryan was impressed not only by the beauty of the West Liberty University campus, but also by the people who make up the faculty, staff, and student body. Depending on how she visits — and three others visit over the next two weeks — she may soon return to stay on as the university’s new president.

Ryan was the first of four finalists to visit campus for interviews in hopes of becoming the next president of WLU. Tim Borchers, vice president for academic affairs at Peru State College in Nebraska, comes next with a visit from Wednesday through Friday. Robert T. Smith, dean and vice president for academic affairs at Valdosta State University in Georgia, visiting April 23-25. David Christiansen, Penn State Chancellor of York, visits April 25-27.

Ryan arrived on Sunday evening and spent Monday visiting with various departments across the university. She said she was impressed with the energy she saw from the many people working to make the WLU experience a good one.

She said, “Every single person I meet today is doing everything they can to create opportunity on this campus, to transform an already incredibly strong university. So I’m really excited by what I’m hearing.”

On Monday afternoon, Fort held in a conference room at WLU’s College Union, answering questions from students, faculty, and others about concerns including residence halls, support for Greek organizations, and simply why she was interested in the job.

In it, Ryan said she was comforted by what the university said it wanted to be, a positive impact on society.

“I come from a friendly place,” she said. “I don’t want to go to a place where everyone is miserable.

“What matters to me is moving forward,” Ryan added.

Ryan was asked what kind of president she would be, and whether she would become one of the students and faculty could approach her or would these people pass these issues on to someone else to be directed at. An effective leader for the university will be “here and there,” Ryan said. This person will be an advocate for the university to the public, and engage with those people far away from campus. But this person will also be involved in what is happening on campus.

She said that the chief would not be able to answer every question, but that “when a problem rises to my level, I will certainly step in”.

When Ryan spoke to various groups on campus, she said that, from what I heard, the university was looking for a collaborative leader. This is something you definitely feel.

“I am also a person with a lot of experience and creativity in higher education,” she said. “And I just shared with them some of my thoughts about where I think the university could go, particularly around community engagement. I’m very interested in making sure that community is really integrated into the communities that it surrounds and serves.”

Thomas Cervon, a member of the WLU Board of Governors who has served as chair of the Presidential Search Committee, said the committee was pleased to begin heading home to select a new chairman. Since last year, the panel has worked with a search firm, narrowing down nearly 60 candidates to eight virtual interviews and then reducing it again to four finalists.

Cervone feels that all four, each in their own way, can be effective leaders for the university. Among the key ingredients the committee seeks from all four finalists is the ability to galvanize the campus and make every group that calls WLU home moving forward into one unit.

Cervone acknowledged that after the controversy during former President W. Franklin Evans’ tenure, the campus needed repair in some ways. During his two years as president, Evans admitted to plagiarizing numerous speeches and underwent a faculty survey that showed a deep mistrust of both his leadership ability and his personal integrity.

One of those four finalists, Cervone said, will have to drive those reforms.

“Someone who can come and clear the doubt and restore the trust of the university,” he said. “Someone who understands that the mission of bringing the campus together and uniting behind the mission of this institution is of paramount importance, which is first and foremost to educate students to send them abroad and to make this world a better place to live.

“So an authentic person, an authentic person, an intelligent person and an energetic person,” Cervone continued. “Because this is a 24/7 job. You live on campus. So you have to be comfortable walking out your front door and running to a student and saying, yeah, how are you? We’re doing great.”

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