By CHASE GORSKI
The pressure is on at Salisbury University for the Presidential Search Committee.
With the spring semester moving quickly, time is moving quickly towards the mid-summer deadline that the school hopes to meet.
The committee plays a pivotal role in selecting the first president at SU since before 2000 that is not named Dudley-Eshbach.
With 15 people serving on the search committee including community members, professors, university officials and members from the Board of Regents, perhaps one of the most important voices is from the sole undergraduate student on the committee.
SGA President Cearrah Sherman was one of the 15 selected by University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor Robert Caret, and the only undergraduate student to represent the other 8,500 plus enrolled.
An important moment in SU history, Sherman is both honored and excited for the opportunity to have a hand in the future plans of the university.
“It’s really important to me because I was close with Dr. Janet, I’ve always thought she was an amazing president,” Sherman said. “I want somebody who is equally as excited to work for [SU] to make the school bigger and better that can actually be visible to the students.”
A topic that has surrounded her presidency, Dr. Dudley-Eshbach has also voiced the need for a future president to be around campus more often. Due to various administrative duties as well as trips to Annapolis, that is something Sherman and Dudley-Eshbach agree on.
This is not Sherman’s first time serving on a search committee at SU, but there is a difference for this one. Despite the pressure, Sherman pulls similarities from her position as the president of SGA.
“This one is different, it’s a lot more intense a lot more is put into it because it is the president of the university,” Sherman said. “As the student body president it’s my job to represent the students not just my personal opinion.”
Other than Sherman and President of the Graduate Student Council Brittany Kesteven, the remaining members of the committee come from an older, more experienced background.
A very diverse group of members each with a respective experience with the university, there are many voices to be heard within the committee. Despite the large cast, Sherman believes that each opinion has been respected and the chemistry of the group has been a positive.
“We’re not the type of committee where majority rules, we’re going to have a discussion of ‘why do you think no or why do you think yes,’” Sherman said.
The committee has been moving slowly throughout the application process, attempting to comb through the various applicants and make decisions before the interview process.
“They are so open to listening to us, yes they are the top dogs but at the end of the day they like to say in these meetings ‘you all are the people that are here, you know what you want for your school,’” Sherman said. “I think it’s been really amazing working with the chair and the other members of the committee and it’s been refreshing.”
As one of the 12 institutions within the USM, SU is no stranger to the battle for attention between those other schools. Throughout her 18 years at SU, a strength of Dudley-Eshbach’s has been how outspoken she is while advocating for the university with ability to raise funds.
With multiple members of the USM on the search committee, many around SU wondered what type of impact other members might be able to have.
Sherman had the same preconception initially, with worries that her presence on the committee was merely a formality. A couple months into the process and those worries have been quelled.
“Sometimes when you get selected for stuff like this you’re kind of nervous, like are they gonna just not even listen to my opinion as a student or are they just going to completely take over,” Sherman said. “But no everybody is equal sitting at the table…we want to make sure all the different aspects of campus and the community have been heard.”
Student presence on these types of committees have been an important factor stressed by the USM. Although it is a small presence with only two students, there is a great deal on importance behind an opinion that directly correlates with the larger student body.
“It is routine to have an undergraduate student among the search committee members,” USM Media Relations and Web Director Mike Lurie said in a statement. “Doing so is one step among many toward having search committees, for any presidential opening at a USM campus, that bring in the perspective of students.”
While presidential searches typically last for around six months, there has been no hard deadline for the committee from the USM, giving them ample time to sift through the potential finalists. The committee had been meeting almost monthly throughout the application process while each member reviewed every application.
As the transition towards the interview process draws closer, those meetings will begin to happen more frequently while members start to lower the number of potential candidates.
Though the applications of these candidates have been a big part in analyzing who might be early standouts, Sherman feels like it is the interviewing that will shed a great deal of light. With such a great number of applicants as well, she is confident with the options SU has.
“I think we have a lot of great applicants…that’s where the interview part comes in you can look at somebody on paper and they could be a check mark but when you interview them, public speaking is a big thing,” Sherman said. “We don’t need anybody who’s timid and not ready to stand up to the big dogs in Annapolis.”
Updates for the search process have been few and far between due to the confidentiality of such committees. While there is no set deadline, students hope to see progress throughout the semester culminating in a president by semester’s end.
The contract of Dudley-Eshbach is set to end June 30, giving the USM and all involved parties a running clock until SU is without a president.
FEATURED IMAGE: SGA President Cearrah Sherman. Source: SGA website.