Convocation Hall

Student leaders will be “included” in the finalist interview process in the University’s search for a new president, according to a Jan. 21 email to the Wheel from Emory University Board of Trustees Chair Robert C. Goddard III.

In the wake of University President Claire E. Sterk’s announced retirement, the Board of Trustees has formed a presidential selection committee composed of trustees, deans and faculty. Though the role of students in the selection process has not been clearly defined, Student Government Association (SGA) President Ben Palmer (18Ox, 20C) and College Council (CC) President Jacob Hicks (18Ox, 20C) said they are actively working to incorporate student voices in the committee’s selection process.

“We are working really hard to make sure that there is room for student voices,” Hicks said in an interview with the Wheel. “What’s most important for me is … that we make sure the [selection committee] can hear undergraduate priorities.”

The Board has also extended communication to the Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) and Oxford SGA, and are currently meeting regularly with SGA and CC in discussions facilitated by Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Enku Gelaye, according to Palmer. 

In addition to regularly scheduled meetings, student leaders submitted various proposals to the selection committee requesting further student engagement. 

SGA President Ben Palmer

According to Palmer, the proposal submitted on behalf of CC and SGA advocated for town halls with selection committee members to answer student concerns, one-on-one listening sessions with student leaders and online forums where concerns can be communicated directly to student government. 

In an interview with the Wheel, GSGA President Cody Long (20L) said that GSGA’s proposal seeks to put students on the selection committee and include students in the finalist interview process.

Within the last month, Goddard, who is also the chair of the presidential selection committee, sent two University-wide emails about the committee’s process for finding a replacement for Sterk: a Dec. 19 email announcing the creation of the committee and a Jan. 15 email about the committee’s decision to hire Isaacson, Miller, an executive search firm, and Ilene Nagel, a consultant specializing in higher education, to help with the search. 

The Jan. 15 email also declared the committee’s intention to create and present to the Board of Trustees a presidential prospectus: a comprehensive job description of a prospective president’s values and priorities. The prospectus will use input collected from “engagement sessions” with students, faculty, alumni, staff, Emory Healthcare professionals, deans and executives.

Though the entire timeline has yet to be confirmed by the selection committee, Palmer stated that SGA plans to host town halls on Tuesday, Jan. 28, noon to 1 p.m., in the Emory Student Center Multipurpose Room 4 and on Thursday, Jan. 30, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., in the same location. 

Though Goddard declined an in-person interview, he provided the Wheel with a written response to a series of questions in a Jan. 21 email sent by Associate Vice President of University Media Relations and Vice President for Academic Communications Nancy Seideman.

In regard to the role of Isaacson, Miller in the search, Goddard said the firm would “assist with identifying and screening candidates” and present candidates to the selection committee for consideration.

Goddard referred to community input in the University’s previous presidential search as “enormously valuable” and said that the committee intends to engage with the entire Emory community in its search. The committee has previously sought input through email and a form on the committee website, though such input is not publicly available to the community. 

Whether initiatives such as One Emory that began under Sterk will continue is up to the discretion of the new president, according to Goddard.

The Board of Trustees has not provided the Emory community with information regarding the process to permanently fill the seat of former Provost Dwight McBride, who stepped down at the end of the Fall semester to serve as president of The New School (N.Y.). Dean of the Candler School of Theology Jan Love is serving as acting provost.