Fort Lewis College trustees opened the floor to public comments on the three candidates vying to be the next president at the school, and support was voiced for all three.
The finalists for the school’s presidency are:
Teresa C. Balser, dean of teaching and learning for the School of Engineering at Curtin University in Perth, Australia.Maria Guajardo, deputy vice president of Soka University in Tokyo, Japan.Tom Stritikus, deputy director of K-12 U.S. Programs for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle.Stritikus earned the endorsement of the Associated Students of Fort Lewis College, the student government.
Evan Wick, senior English communication major, said the school is in a situation that is precarious yet full of opportunity. Student government’s decision to back Stritikus, he said, was based on the group’s view that he best combined attributes of openness, goal- and action-driven decision-making and a dedication to conflict resolution.
Ian Fullinwider, vice president of the Associated Students of Fort Lewis College, said “We didn’t find him to be the most pleasant of the candidates, but he has attributes to be the best leader for Fort Lewis, and I think that speaks volumes.”
Patrick Fredricks, leadership programs coordinator at FLC, said his first choice would be Balser, because he believed she would be best at encouraging open conversations and good choices representing various stakeholders on campus.
DeeDee de Haro Brown, former director of the Durango Latino Education Center, supported Guajardo. She said she had worked with her in the past and found her to be “approachable and easy to work with” and said she was “most appreciative of her problem-solving abilities.”
Michael Valdez, the faculty representative on the Board of Trustees, praised Trustee Dick Kaufman’s efforts in addressing faculty concerns during the search process.
FLC’s current president, Dene Thomas, will retire at the end of the academic year. Thomas’ successor is expected to assume the presidency on July 1.
Thomas earns $260,000 annually and is provided with the use of a house and a car.
Declining enrollment has pinched finances at FLC, and this week the college announced it would trim almost $4.16 million from its 2018-19 budget and lay off 11 staff members, none of whom were tenured or tenure-track faculty members.
A total of 33 full-time equivalent positions were impacted in some way by the budget-reduction plan. Between full- and part-time positions within those 33 FTEs, about 40 individual positions were impacted, said Mitch Davis, spokesman for FLC. Davis said “impacted” could mean eliminated, reduced or restructured.
After public comments, the board went into closed session to discuss the candidates.
Board of Trustees President Steve Short said while no vote would be taken, the trustees would identify one of the three to begin negotiations for a contract to lead the school.
He said he expected to set a special trustees meeting next week to formally approve one of the candidates as the next president and to approve the contract for the new president.