Since former Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Domanic Thomas’s departure from campus in fall 2019, a committee made up of Willamette administrators, faculty and students have been searching for the next person to fill the role. In the last few weeks, the final three candidates visited campus to take part in conversations and interviews with a series of people on campus, as well as open forums that all community members were welcome to attend. Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Jade Aguilar is chairing the hiring committee. Aguilar hopes to have a candidate selected by spring break and have them begin their role this summer.
Speaking to what the committee has been looking for in candidates, Aguilar said, “We have been trying to get a qualified group of folks who are committed to student engagement, committed to Title IX stuff, to equity, diversity and inclusion, to being a really engaged and authentic and an active dean of students and vice president of student affairs.”
To begin the search for quality candidates, Aguilar reported that the committee hired an executive search firm that helps manage the beginning of hiring processes with tasks like reaching out to interested parties, collecting application materials and protecting the privacy of candidates. Since these candidates are often currently working at other institutions and might not want their employers to know they are on the market, this service helps to keep that information private until the final three candidates are selected. The firm received many applications, but narrowed it down to 20 recommended candidates for the committee to review.
The committee interviewed nine of those people over Skype, and then invited three of them to campus as the final round of interviews. While on campus, candidates had meetings with many leaders and departments on campus, including but not limited to Provost Carol Long, the person this position reports to and hiring manager who ultimately gets to choose who is offered the position, University President Steve Thorsett, Student Affairs leadership and a selected group of students.
Each candidate also had an open forum that all interested community members were invited to attend. At these forums, candidates were allotted five minutes to introduce themselves, and then 15 minutes to respond to the question: “Willamette University has observed a gradual but marked decline in student engagement over the last few years. Fewer students are applying for leadership positions (for example, in student government, resident assistant and Opening Days leader) and more students are leaving these positions. At the same time, the Campus Climate survey results told us that students in all three colleges do not experience a strong sense of ‘Willamette community,’ although they do have their own sub-communities. As vice president for student sffairs and dean of students, what strategies for increasing engagement would you consider and how would you determine which to implement?”
The rest of the hour allowed for questions from the audience. After each forum, Aguilar sent a Google Form to everyone who attended asking for their feedback and opinions on the candidate.
The final three candidates are Dr. Lowell Davis, Dr. Lisa Landreman and Dr. Terry Lindsay, who visited campus on Feb. 24, Feb. 27 and March 4 respectively.
The hiring committee met on March 9 to discuss who should be offered the job. When they come to a decision, they will recommend that candidate to Long. Long will then make the final decision.