Keene State College recently began its search for a new college president after Helen Giles-Gee’s departure in May of this year. Katelyn Williams, student body president, was voted in as the Student Representative of the Presidential Search Committee at KSC.
While it is early in the committee’s search, Williams stated the role of a college president puts that individual on the “frontline of the institution,” and has a role as a strong communicator between the college and everyone else.
The president’s main duty, according to Williams, is to be point person at KSC, have the values of the college, oversee and make sure the college is functioning to the best of its ability. Williams said she will work with faculty, staff and school trustees to select a new college President.
“My responsibility is to make sure that the students’ point of view is taken into consideration with the wants and needs of the campus when it comes to the next President of Keene State College,” Williams explained.
Williams said she was selected as a “student voice” of the selection process, so she will speak on behalf of students.
The student body president will also work with selected faculty and staff representatives from different departments on campus to find and choose a president that fits well into the KSC community.
Williams regarded the president’s ability to work with the campus and community as an important factor in the presidential selection.
“I think that the atmosphere of Keene State College itself is a community-based institution, and the next president needs to have that same feeling to be a presence on campus. I would like to see someone who isn’t a celebrity on the campus, but more of someone who is part of the community,” Williams said.
What is it that the students of KSC want to see in their next president?
One student, senior Courtney Lynch, said a sense of community is one major quality that should be looked for in a potential president
Lynch said, “The president should create a welcoming campus.” Lynch used Interim President Jay Kahn as an example. “Jay Kahn went out of his way to meet everyone and would try to remember faces,” Lynch recalled. Senior Bonnie Chalmers similarly added that she would like to see a president who is available face to face. Chalmers said, “Not all students feel comfortable just sending an email to their president.”
Chalmers added, “The president should be more involved with the community as a whole.”
Chalmers mentioned the effect that the KSC president could have on the Keene community. “The president should work to create stronger relationships between departments on-campus,” Chalmers explained, “The president should be good at connecting groups of people, bringing people together, and finding out what changes need to be made.” Jennifer Welch, a senior, stated that she would like to see a president involved in academics as well as administration, but also said, “We should have someone who cares about the school, is honest and is willing to try new things.” Williams’ selection process echoes that of these students’ desires. Williams explained she wants to help select someone who cares for the school and knows how a college works.
While the selection board has not decided on specific qualities they would like to see in a president, Williams shared her thoughts as she moves forward with her role in the selection process.
Williams stated, “I would like someone who has had experience working in an institution of higher education. I think that that’s important. It’s something that was brought up in the Open Forum–the idea of having someone like a politician or a business person, but I really think that in order for Keene State to remain the type of college that it is, we need someone with a background in higher education.” Williams commented that the new president needs to have the ability to oversee the diverse campus community.
She said he or she needs to be able to work well with the people on campus, as the job requires heavy collaboration with many departments. She also mentioned, “I don’t want someone to come in here and try to change Keene State to what they want it to be. I’d rather they come in here and accept Keene State for what it is right now because it’s a great place. I hope for them to fall in love with this institution as all of the students do.”
Williams concluded, “A president who can love Keene State as much as the students love Keene State and is supportive of the students’ growth and the connection between the college and the community of Keene, N.H. That’s what I would like to see from a student’s point of view.”
Pamela Bump can be contacted at