Members of the Board Search Committee leading the search for the next chancellor of the University of Mississippi held the first series of Campus Listening Sessions today to allow Ole Miss alumni, students, staff and faculty to voice the qualifications that they believe are needed in the next executive leader.
Alumni met with the Board during the first session, which began at 11 a.m. in the Inn at Ole Miss Ballroom on the Oxford campus. Faculty, staff and students met with the Board at 2 p.m.
Alumnus and Oxford businessman Steve Vassallo was the first to speak during the alumni session, stating that it was important for the new chancellor to come from Ole Miss because this would assure that he or she would respect the values and uniqueness of the university. “Our name, Ole Miss, should be an eternal branding of the school,” he said. “It took two centuries to develop this brand and it’s significant in this respect. “ Vassallo suggested that the new chancellor understand the Ole Miss culture and how to best continue carrying its image into the future.
Vassallo also suggested that the new chancellor should adopt the economic development of Oxford and Lafayette County as a core mission in an effort to attract quality instructors and employers to the area.
”[This is] critical,” he said. “If our graduates cannot find meaningful jobs, what’s the point in investing four years or more of life here? Assisting the city of Oxford and Lafayette County in recruiting more and better-equipped employers, to me, is extremely important.”
Effective communication with the alumni, according to Vassallo should be the top priority of the university’s leader. “[This] trumps effective communication even with the faculty,” he said. “We are the ones who are contributing financially, not receiving any entitlements or gifts, and our viewpoints need to be significantly considered at all times, not just during fundraising campaigns. “
Alumna and Oxford resident Mary Riggs addressed the Board and encouraged them to broaden their search and seek someone who will work to unify the Ole Miss community. “I don’t think you need to only look at people from Ole Miss,” she said. “I think the search should be wider because the faculty and students are now from very wide backgrounds geographically and in other ways.” Riggs said that Ole Miss needs a leader who will work to make the university more appealing to those living outside of the South. “I think we need someone more unifying, and I think we need to also get over the Civil War in respects to both racism and regional discrimination,” she said. “I hope for a broader, wider, more inclusive kind of leadership at Ole Miss.”
Riggs suggested Drew Gilpin Faust, current and first woman president of Harvard University, as a candidate for chancellor. “She has both northern and southern lineage,” Riggs said. “I think she would be a unifying person for Ole Miss.”
Additional Listening Sessions will be held on Thursday, August 20, 2015 at the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus in Jackson and on Thursday, August 27, 2015 on the Oxford Campus.
Beth Harmon is managing editor for HottyToddy.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.