Buffalo State ready to narrow finalists for presidency - The Buffalo News

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Buffalo State ready to narrow finalists for presidency

A new president for SUNY Buffalo State could be named within the next few weeks, now that each of the five finalists for the post has visited the campus,

The last of the finalists ended her visit on Thursday, when she met with the presidential search committee and toured the campus of roughly 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

Buffalo State’s College Council scheduled a meeting for this afternoon to recommend three candidates to State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.

The chancellor will then recommend one person to the SUNY Board of Trustees, and the new president could be appointed as soon as the board’s June meeting in Buffalo.

The search began last year following the death of the college’s eighth president, Aaron M. Podolefsky.

The College Council created of a 22-person search committee and hired Academic Search, a national firm, to help identify potential candidates.

The committee narrowed a list of applicants to five finalists, each of whom visited the campus for a series of meetings, interviews and open forums with faculty, staff, students and administrators.

“We’ve had great participation, and it’s been a very healthy and constructive process,” said Howard Zemsky, chairman of the Buffalo State Council and the presidential search committee. “We’re in good shape.”

Zemsky said the Council will meet in executive session to select its three recommended candidates. Their names will be submitted to Zimpher, along with written comments about each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. The candidates will not be ranked, and the three names will not be announced publicly, he said.

The candidate visits concluded Thursday with Margaret E. Madden, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Potsdam State College.

Madden, who was in town for three days, told a group of about 25 faculty members at one of six open forums on Wednesday that she was drawn to the Buffalo State job because the college, like Potsdam, has such a profound impact on the lives of many first-generation college students, students of modest means and students who need extra attention on their way to earning a degree.

“I bet you have students who come to you and say, ‘I wouldn’t have made it without you,’ ” Madden said in her introductory remarks to faculty. “I really think that this is a place that can make a difference.”

Madden has been chief academic officer since 2002 at Potsdam.

Madden was a finalist for the top post at Montana State University–Billings, but the college this week chose someone else.

Madden remains among five finalists to be chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Stout.

At Buffalo State, Howard Cohen, chancellor emeritus at Purdue University Calumet in Indiana, has served as interim president since last August.

Cohen initially said he was not interested in the job permanently.

But he was introduced April 30 as one of the five finalists, and a day later, he participated in a series of open forums with campus stakeholders just as the other candidates were asked to do.

Cohen said at one session that when he first came to Buffalo State to serve as interim president, at the suggestion of former President Muriel Howard, he had no idea about what he was getting into and planned to stay for a year at most.

But he has since grown to enjoy the city and the college, he said.

Cohen also said he learned that “I still have the energy and enthusiasm to be president.”

In addition to Cohen and Madden, two other candidates have SUNY connections.

Susan D. Phillips, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University at Albany, was the first candidate on campus, April 21. Katherine Conway-Turner, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Hood College in Frederick, Md., had served in the same capacity at Geneseo State College from 2004 to 2009.

Conway-Turner told a mixed group of campus stakeholders on Monday that a good president needs to communicate often and regularly with a broad constituency on campus, fostering an environment where people are comfortable sharing information, even if it’s not always positive.

“I would aspire to be the kind of president to whom people knew they could bring the full news,” she said.

Conway-Turner was a finalist earlier this year for the presidency of Framingham State University in Massachusetts but was not hired.

Gary L. Miller, the lone candidate without a SUNY connection, has been chancellor since 2011 of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Miller was among three finalists for the president’s job at Youngstown State University in Ohio that went to former Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel.

It’s not clear when Zimpher will announce her recommendation to the SUNY trustees.

The next scheduled meeting of SUNY trustees is June 16 and 17 at the University at Buffalo.

email: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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