Then there were three

A search committee has narrowed down the list of candidates for Minot State University president to three.

The committee voted to recommend Lorrie Clemo, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the State University of New York at Oswego; Steve Shirley, current president of Valley City State University; and Martin Slann, dean of the college of arts and sciences at the University of Texas in Tyler for consideration by the full state board of higher education.

The state board will meet on the Minot State University campus on Feb. 27 to interview all three candidates and make a final decision.

Clemo, Shirley and Slann all were interviewed by the search committee on the MSU campus this week and also met with students, staff and community leaders.

Jessica Kozloff, a consultant working with the search committee, said all three candidates were praised by current and former colleagues.

Clemo is described by one colleague as one of the best leaders he has seen in a long career. She is described as “inclusive, yet directive” and an enthusiastic leader who motivates people to get things done. When called to make difficult decisions such as budget cuts, she is said to make changes thoughtfully and incrementally. As the State University of New York has 65 campuses, she has a lot of experience working with campuses of difference sizes and with distance education.

Shirley, who has been president at Valley City State University for six years, managed to win over even hardened skeptics when he first took the position six years ago, according to Kozloff. Colleagues described him as collaborative and sensitive and understanding to faculty concerns, since he had worked as a faculty member. He takes his time making decisions and so doesn’t make many mistakes, according to one colleague. Another said Shirley is “really quite brilliant solving problems and seeing the future” and is wise beyond his years, according to Kozloff. Shirley drew praise for getting a study abroad program started at the small college in Valley City and for working well with other campuses in the university system and for his experience in working with state legislators and being well liked and respected by other presidents at North Dakota colleges.

Slann, who interviewed with the search committee on Friday morning, has been at the University of Texas at Tyler since July 2011. He is described by his colleagues as a thoughtful, data driven leader who cares how the decisions he makes might affect people. One word used consistently to describe him was “humble” and one colleague said Slann seems to see himself as a “servant leader” on campus, serving faculty and students and the community.

Slann told the search committee on Friday morning that he also had experience working with a Native American population when he was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where he served from 2008 to 2011. Prior to that, he had been associate dean in the School of Arts and Sciences at Macon State College from 2005 to 2008. He chaired the department of political science at Clemson University from 1995 to 2002.

Slann told the committee that his leadership style is “collaborative.” He enjoys writing, teaching and administration, and working with students, he said.

Though the three recommended candidates are “unranked” in the recommendation given to the full board of higher education, not all committee members shared the same opinion of the candidates.

Phillip Streccius and Marley Kotylak, student members of the search committee, said fellow students liked Slann, who made a strong impression during his presentation to students, and some of them were still talking about Clemo after she gave her presentation earlier in the week. Kotylak said there were some student

concerns about Shirley and whether he would be able to make the transition from being president at Valley City to being president at Minot State, a different university in the same university system. Joseph Jastrzembski, a search committee member and a history professor at MSU, said he asked his students and their favorites seemed to be Clemo and Shirley. Richard Jenkins, vice president for student affairs at MSU and a search committee member, said his colleagues’ favorites seemed to be Clemo, Shirley and Nicholas Piccolo, the vice president for student life at Alma College in Alma, Mich.

Search committee member Jon Backes, a Minot attorney, said his chosen candidates were Clemo, Shirley and Slann and he would strike Piccolo from the list because Backes didn’t think Piccolo, though he also is highly respected by colleagues, has enough experience with a public university system. Alma College is a private university.

Committee members Linda Cresap, associate professor of business information and technology, and Annette Mennem, director of MSU’s Native American Cultural Center, both said they saw only two candidates who were qualified for the presidency. Cresap, Mennem and Jenkins, vice president for student affairs at MSU, all voted against the motion to recommend the three candidates to the State Board of Higher Education for further consideration. The other search committee members voted in favor of the motion and the motion passed.

Current MSU president David Fuller will retire in June. The new president will take office this summer.