Editorial—Important considerations in the presidential search

North Wind Staff

As NMU continues its search for a president to replace Fritz Erickson, we at the North Wind have given some thought to the type of individual we believe would be an ideal candidate. As students, we appreciate the administration’s efforts to take student and community voices into account through listening sessions during this process. We hope NMU will listen to the voices who speak up during these forums.

We fully recognize the difficulty in finding a suitable candidate for this position and hope that the university continues its careful search. Going forward, this university needs a leader who will take action, who can be consistent and forward-thinking.

We’d like the university to take into account the age of candidates. Students want a leader who can relate to their situation in life and to the concerns of the modern age. This requires a leader in the 30s to 40s age range, who can empathize with college students and understand issues from our perspective.

For example, younger candidates will have an easier time empathizing with the financial stresses that students face. We need someone who is not disconnected from these issues, who understands on an intuitive what a life of student loan payments looks like.

We also need someone who brings fresh ideas. A younger candidate will likely be able to bring a deep concern for the environment to their work as well. As students, we are mostly young people with our lives ahead of us and thus we are generally very concerned about the state of the environment. We need a leader who is motivated, like us, to protect our environment by aggressively pursuing sustainability in the way our institution operates.

One topic which has come up in listening sessions recently is the idea of a president who will value student empowerment. Given the resources, students could make a great deal of progress in creating a campus that will serve and attract committed undergrads, grad students and scholars. Students are motivated to pursue tangible achievements and to do so quickly. We hope that our next president will view student power as a vast generative power for the university rather than something that has to be contained and diverted.

As far as other demographic characteristics of an ideal presidential candidate, we would love to see a woman in this seat of power, to follow Interim President Kerri Schuiling. Even more exciting would be the installment of a person of color and/or an LGBTQ individual in the position.

Some amount of representation in this position would show incoming and current students that diversity is a priority for the university and that many different groups of people can feel safe, accepted and even valued on campus. If actual representation is not possible, it is essential that our future president has had some type of diversity, equity and inclusion training.

One final suggestion to consider is candidates’ connections to the community. In an ideal world, perhaps an alumnus of NMU would be fit for the job. That said, some familiarity with the Midwest and the way our communities operate would be necessary for a prospective president to adequately connect with the student body.

We realize all of those criteria constitute quite a tall order, and we don’t expect perfection. We hope that our administration will continue taking their time with this important decision and that they will value student input while maintaining transparency. Although this process will be difficult, we hope for a president that NMU students can fully stand behind.