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Looking to the future: what the board envisions

Wendy Brody, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee and current member of the Board of Trustees, has someone specific in mind to succeed President Holmgren: Superman. Or, of course, Superwoman.

Editorial cartoon by Melodie Miu. Colored by Christina Macias.

Many members of the Mills community have been clicking “Contact Us” on the Presidential Search Committee Web site. Suggestions have been flooding Brody’s mailbox daily.

“There are so many ideas,” Brody said. “We’re trying to focus them… We have to be realistic. We have to weigh everyone’s ideas and suggestions and prioritize. We need to look at who is out there and maybe, just maybe, this super person is.”

Kathleen Burke, Chair of the Board of Trustees and current board member, is helping to put together the Presidential Search Committee and has articulated one of the most obvious and important qualities in our new president: “commitment to women’s education and women’s leadership.”

But should our new president be an academic? If so, should she have classroom experience or administrative experience? Or should she have a background in business and fiscal management?

These are all important questions that may not be decided until the candidates are narrowed down. But even with the looming questions, everyone agrees on one thing: The new president must relate to and develop relationships with the staff, faculty and student body.

“[This person] needs to be fully respected by the faculty,” said Brody.

The new president “should forge a really professional and personal relationship with [the community],” said Anita Bowers, a member of the Board of Trustees and President of the Alumnae Association. “I think Mills, as a smaller college, is a perfect place for the president to get to know the student body.”

Still, there are many aspects of the president’s job that are fundamentally bureaucratic — that is to say that maybe being friends with everybody is not necessarily possible. It is also important, Bowers pointed out, that the new president must be focused on student retention, fiscal management and fundraising.

“We don’t know yet the best combination [of qualities] possible,” said Brody. The new president should be someone with a lot of talent, but “we want a really well-rounded person. We don’t want a Nobel Laureate who will sit in [his oe her] office and play Sudoku.”

In addition, the new president does not take office for another year and a half. In the year before President Holmgren took office, the Board and former president voted to make Mills coeducational and the student body went on strike. A lot can happen in the interim period.

“There are a lot of things that are going well [with] the College, [but it] is going to the next level,” said Trustee Cora Tellez. “The president should want to take it even further [and]… take advantage of [all] future opportunities.”

Brody, Bowers, Tellez and Burke all said the new president must be committed to the current five year strategic plan. Developed in December 2006, the plan lays out goals to be realized between Fall 2007 and Spring 2012.

The three main components are harnessing the leadership potential of Mills students, encouraging a more diverse student body and faculty and greening the College without breaking the bank. You can read more about the strategic plan by downloading the PDF, The Office of the President.

“I would expect that the new president would understand the strategic plan, agree with it and execute it,” said Tellez.

Burke added, “Our new president needs to be on board when it is time to rework the current strategic plan and [work with the board to] take it to the next level.”

The Board wants someone who will build up the academic programs we have.

“Mills needs to continue to be exciting and challenging,” said Bowers. “We need to be competitive with other colleges.”

The Board is also looking to build and remodel the campus, Bowers said. The next project is a new Student Union and center.

The Presidential Search Committee, which began forming at the beginning of March, is almost put together, said Brody. They are still in just the beginning stages of picking the firm which will help to select the candidates. The board hopes to release a completed list of search committee members as well as their choice for a firm within the next couple of weeks.

Alixandra Greenman contributed to this report.