The search to find DePauw University’s next president gained momentum this week. The newly appointed Presidential Search Committee is now fully in position to find the best candidate to replace current president Brian Casey.
Two of the committee of 18 are students—Craig Carter ’16 and Perrin Duncan ’17.
It is common to see students serve on university presidential search committees. Carter and Duncan have the same role as any other member of the committee. They will participate in interviews and review applications.
Kathy Patterson Vrabeck ’85, chair of the search committee, said the students were appointed. There was no application process to attain their position.
“It was certainly natural for us to go to Craig as president of the study body, you typically see that on search committees,” she said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
“Perrin’s name had come up and I talked to her about joining the committee and she seemed to have a passion.”
Duncan believes her economics and studio art double major, as well as her campus involvement, has allowed her to meet a large number of people on campus. She is prepared to serve as a voice for the student body throughout the search.
“I’m here to listen to anyone’s concerns and interests in what they want to see for our next president,” she said.
Carter agrees with Duncan and believes his campus involvement has led to relationships that will lend to his ability to represent the student body.
“I have connections with many communities on campus and I can be a direct pipe-line for student input,” he wrote in an email Wednesday night. “So the intimidation of reaching out to a trustee or faculty member is removed.”
These two students are on the committee as more than a voice for the student body; they represent and understand the current state of DePauw.
“The students who are there understand what’s going on now,” Kyle Lanham ’79 alumni trustee on the committee said, “they understand what life is like as a 22-year-old or a 21-year-old.”
Carter and Duncan are not the only avenue for student input. A panel was held Monday afternoon for student leaders on campus. Hosted by Isaacson, Miller, the executive search firm appointed to assist in the process, the intention was to gain perspective on what the student body desires in the university's next president.
The panel consisted of representatives from a wide range of student organizations on DePauw’s campus as well as the Greek organizations. All representatives were able to give their opinions.
“There were three women from [Isaacson, Miller] and they basically asked the student leaders what they were looking for in the next president,” senior Erin Mann, a representative for residence life said.
The interests of Isaacson, Miller representatives extended beyond characteristics and traits, they wanted to understand students DePauw experience.
“The way the framed it was really unique; they said we want to know why you chose DePauw because we want to find a candidate that aligns with those qualities,” said Mann.
There were a number of requests that remained constant across the student leaders that were present. Students want someone who is passionate, approachable and ready to propel the university forward.
“I think a lot of the themes were the same," said Mann. "People want someone who is personable, someone who is focused on academics, who respects and understands the traditions of DePauw and how it’s a really special place to be here."
Senior John Zupancic, present as a representative from Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, echoed Mann and spoke on the student body’s desire to have an engaged university president.
“Everybody loves how involved President Casey is on campus, you see him walking around with his dog, he goes to all the sporting events,” he said. “We want someone like that who’s actually happy to be here.”
Students also want a president who is able to understand DePauw’s campus climate, and is ready to take the issues into consideration and present resolutions.
“I think students are looking for someone who will address [DePauw’s] issue of diversity and inclusiveness head on and make that a priority,” said Duncan.
One final area of interest that arose from the panel on Monday was the need for a focus on the current DePauw. The university needs someone who is going to take a look at what we have and improve on those things before expanding out.
Duncan suggested a number of potential improvements that could be made once money is raised that include “academic areas like technology in science departments and in Asbury and Harrison.”
The representatives from the search firm were engaged throughout the panel. They took notes on what the students who were present said, as well as asked questions when a comment piqued their interest.
“One of the women from [Isaacson, Miller] said that she saw the biggest turnout of students that she’s seen in her history of working with campuses,” Ellen Tinder, representative for Civic Fellows, DePauw Community Service and Little 5 said.
“I think that people walked away from [the panel] feeling very positively about the fact that there’s a qualified group of people who are actively looking for the best person to fill the role of president,” said Mann.
Lanham echoed her enthusiasm.
“This is a very exciting thing, and if you talk to the people in this world of what Boards of Trustees do,” Lanham said, “everybody would say there is no more important work for a board than picking the right president.”