Presidential hopefuls pitch for CSCC job
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer and ELIZABETH RODDY Banner Intern
Nov 07, 2013 | 2065 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CLEVELAND STATE Community College’s presidential search committee interviewed the final three candidates Wednesday morning. Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan is expected to make a suggestion to the board before Thanksgiving. Banner photo, DELANEY WALKER
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Cleveland State Community College’s presidential search committee interviewed the final three candidates, Gene Couch Jr., William Seymour and Niles Reddick, in back-to-back interviews Wednesday morning.

The 15-member committee provided each candidate with an hour and 15 minutes to answer and ask questions.

Reddick, currently serving as vice president for Academic and Student Affairs at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga., was the first in the three-part sessions.

Committee members wanted to know what Cleveland State could expect from Reddick within his first 90 days in office.

“The first 90 days of any position is getting oriented with everyone and everything and learning how to operate,” Reddick said. “I think part of that is learning the institution. I think part of that is learning where the president fits in the Cleveland community. I would expect I would be moving around getting to know people.” 

His outsider perspective has already allowed him to notice small needs which may have been overlooked by the current staff. The initial 90-day orientation would also include brainstorming to identify long-term projects. Reddick said these would need to be addressed and started immediately.

He pointed out the potential and needs for the Cleveland State branch in Athens.

“That seems to be a critical need for facilities in that community, and alliances and partnerships,” Reddick said. “This is due to the growth they have experienced in the past few years.”

He later spoke on the importance of creating strong relationships with local manufacturers.

“In some ways that is the mission of the two-year institution — to be heavily involved in community and to offer access,” Reddick said. “Access is important and it changes from time to time. Relationships with the community, particularly the workforce, change over time as well.”

He went on to highlight the wealth of industry in Cleveland.

Added Reddick, “I think there could be many more partnerships made than there are currently.”

He ended by thanking the committee for the opportunity.

Seymour, who is currently serving as the vice president for Institutional Advancement at Jackson State Community College in Jackson, entered the room soon after Reddick’s departure.

He began by highlighting for the board why he would be a positive attribute to Cleveland State.

“I think I bring a diversity of experience. I have been an educator for almost 34 years. I have been able to see the value that exists in all kinds of institutions and the impact they have on students,” Seymour said. “I can bring many things to the table. I can deal with the best practices in many different situations.”

He said his interest in Cleveland State stems from his overall support of community colleges in Tennessee. According to Seymour, he is a patriot for the two-year institution. His commitment to community colleges is met by his appreciation for East Tennessee.

“I was at Maryville College for 14-and-a-half years. That is where my kids grew up and I have many friends in the area,” Seymour said. “It was very nice to drive back and see the mountains. I feel very comfortable in this area.”

Committee members received a surprise when they asked Seymour where he thought he would be in 10 years.

“Well I’m very determined to be the president of this system. This is the only job I am pursuing. I am not looking all over the country for a job at this point. I am committed to TBR,” Seymour said. “So I envision I will be in my 10th year as president at Cleveland State.”

The committee stuck to their formatted questions and asked Seymour what the college could expect within his first 90 days.

“First of all, people would see me all over the place. I literally would like to have a meeting with every faculty member, every staff member, sit down in their office and pick their brain. I think that would be at the top of my list, to make that effort,” Seymour said. “I think not only do I get the opportunity to gain that information, but I make that personal contact. They have the understanding I am making the effort to seek them out.”

He reiterated he has become committed to the TBR system and would be a champion for Cleveland State.

A short break was taken before Couch was interviewed.

A committee member asked Couch why he was interested in the position and feel he is the best candidate.

He said that over his 30-year career he has been very involved and had the opportunity to work closely with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and their Reaffirmation of Accreditation. He said that he has led three reaffirmation processes between his previous and current employer.

He also shared what he felt are some of the requirements to do well as president.

“I see the presidency as a complex position. You’ve got to know a lot of stuff about a lot of things and have to be able to communicate that in a way that’s pretty effective. You’ve got to be an outstanding communicator,” Couch said. “I think I have all of those capabilities and qualities that I think would be a match and a fit to be a success for this institution.”

He said he challenged those he works with to enjoy what they do so they can be positive and productive.

“Everybody needs to feel connected in a way that moves the institution forward,” Couch said. “It’s my responsibility to create that environment that says we’re in this together — we have different roles and positions in the institution — but as a result of that we’re all moving forward, [and are] all on the same team, and all about student success.”

Couch said if he is chosen as president his plan for the first 90 days is to learn the ins and outs of the institution, its people and its programs.

When asked for any final remarks, Couch responded with a quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Well done is better than well said.”

He explained he may not be the most well-spoken candidate, but he promised to be the most effective at getting the job done.

Morgan said he thought the interview process went well.

“Right now I feel really good about the process,” Morgan said. “We have three good candidates.”

Morgan will reach out to the committee members next week to get their input on the candidates. He will also talk to students, staff, faculty and members of the business community, and anticipates having a recommendation shortly thereafter to take to the board.

Morgan and Vice Chancellor Nichols followed up the presidential search by privately interviewing each individual candidate Wednesday afternoon.