BY DEREK ALLEN
Candidates meet with students, faculty
For the third time in 47 years The County College of Morris is actively searching for a new president to take the reins from Edward Yaw, who is departing this summer after three decades at the helm of the institution.
“Each of the candidates are so uniquely different from one another,” said Janique Caffie, the dean of student development and enrollment management. “Ultimately one of them will be invited to take over the leadership of the college. I believe that there is a candidate that is being vested that can be the next president of CCM.”
The CCM Board of Trustees has appointed 11 people to the Presidential Search Committee. The committee is comprised of five trustee members (Stanley T. Omland, Jeffrey Advokat, Joseph Ricca, Joseph Weisberg, Barbara Hadzima), three union representatives (Stephan Kaifa, Shelley Kurland, Richard Burchfield), Director of Human Resources & Labor Relations Thomas Burk, CCM Foundation Chair William McElroy and CCM student Michael Masino.
The committee has narrowed down the list of candidates to four: Mark McCormick, Margaret A. Hamilton, David Podell, and Anthony J. Iacono. All candidates have a doctorate except for McCormick, who is completing his Ph.D. this year.
As a current student himself, McCormick said he believes smaller class sizes are a great benefit to students.
“Even in a college this size, the same people tend to be in the same classes and the same clubs,” McCormick said. “It feels like a smaller college. Community colleges have that. Here, you guys have classes with 20 or 30 students. You don’t get that at Rutgers or Montclair, you get classes with 300 students where professors don’t know who you are. I think students benefit from that high touch two years, then you move on to Rutgers and succeed.”
McCormick said it’s important for a president to be a “chief cheerleader” of the college, advocating outside of the college for grants and trying to find internships for students.
“The other part of the job is being here and being visible,” McCormick said. “Coming to performances, club meetings, showing up at events. Letting you know: the president is here, he knows what you’re doing and he cares about what you’re doing.”
McCormick said he would sit in on meetings to connect students and faculty to each other.
“If I hear two people are working on a similar idea, and they’re not already working together, I can connect the two and maybe bring in some outside funding,” McCormick said. “Great things can happen this way.”
Money at CCM has been an issue. Last year, facing a $1.9 million budget shortfall, the college administration was forced to cut positions and programs to close the gap.
If chosen, McCormick said he would work with the next governor of New Jersey to get the budget – especially for community colleges – back up.
“A lot more of the money available goes to four year schools and not to us,” McCormick said. “They get a bigger piece of the pie than we do, yet we do more of the work. It seems like there are more students in community colleges in the state rather than four year schools … The money should be reversed. We should get more of the money. We don’t. I would certainly advocate the state legislatures for more money for the college.”
Candidate Margaret A. Hamilton, said there are other ways for the college to increase revenue.
“Colleges seem to think the only way to increase revenue is to increase enrollment,” said Hamilton. “Yes, indeed, but there are other ways. You can lease property, you can do partnerships, you can provide a service to another organization that they don’t have. All of these provide revenue.”
Hamilton said CCM needs to reduce costs, reprioritize, or bring money in through alternate means.
“The worst thing you want to do is an across the board cut,” said Hamilton. “Nothing good comes from that. Better to do the fiscal analysis and think ‘What can we do with our slice of the pie?’”
Hamilton said she has been more of a consultant in her own organization, moving around a lot trying to fix problems and then moving on to other problem areas.
“What I’m really good at is startup, then hand over,” Hamilton said. “I think this college is looking for a transitional president. I don’t know if they’ll stay for 20 years. That’s not what happens anymore, not in corporations, not in colleges. Especially in an administrative position, you don’t stay for the sake of staying. You’ve got to know when to leave the party.”
Anthony J. Iacono, another candidate, said in terms of budgets the recession hit educational institutions hard, affecting community colleges and universities.
“Everyone had to make choices,” Iacono said. “You have to look at how to best provide for [students.] Sometimes in economic downturns, you realign things. You have to realign your priorities without abandoning them. You need to ask, ‘Are there other ways for us to achieve what we’re trying to achieve?’ Economic downturns are a reality. You plan for it, you stay focused on your priorities.”
Besides budgets, Iacono also emphasized the importance of good leadership.
“Leadership starts at listening,” Iacono said. “It’s not about doing what you want to do and trying to convince people to follow you, it’s about listening. It’s about asking ‘Where are they at? Where do they want to go?’ It’s about sharing and collaborating.”
Iacono said CCM looks like it is designed to offer a wide range of opportunities.
“That’s the kind of college I want to work with,” Iacono said.
David Podell, the fourth candidate, has 26 years of experience in an administrative position and has a concrete idea of what a president should strive for.
“I think the president’s job is to put together that vision from everyone else’s vision,” Podell said. “It can’t be just one person’s vision.”
Podell said he would accumulate a lot of people’s point of view and then unify them into goals to strive for.
“The more I learn about CCM, the more I’m impressed by it,” Podell said. “It strikes me that this is a great college. If we can make it better, that’s great. My heart is in public education, that’s where I want to be.”
The four finalists have each in turn toured the college and met with faculty and students, getting a feel for CCM’s atmosphere.
As the search continues, more one-on-one interviews will continue between candidates and the search committee.
“It’s a big job,” said Joseph Ricca, a member of the search committee. “It’s the biggest responsibility the board has right now. The board has been taking it very seriously.”
Ricca said opening up the process and allowing candidates to meet with students and faculty has helped the board in the decision making process. The search committee plans to recommend a candidate to the Board of Trustees when they meet on March 16. The board will vote on a new CCM President after presented with a recommendation.
For his part, Yaw said he has had limited involvement in the search process and it would not be appropriate for him to indicate a preference for a successor.