Who will fill the presidential shoes of Tim Gilmour?

Devoni Novak, Assistant News Editor

While the country is debating who the best candidate is to fill the seat in the White House, Wilkes University has its own decision to make in filing the presidential seat in UCOM.
Two candidates came to campus last week to introduce themselves to the Wilkes community, faculty, staff and students. The final candidate will soon arrive and present his insight to the presidential position.
Dr. Jim Gandre, executive vice president of Roosevelt University in Chicago, is among the three finalists of possible presidents for Wilkes University. Gandre was attracted to Wilkes by the tight knit personality of the campus which reminded him of the university he studied at as a student. He feels the Wilkes campus has the power to be life-changing to attending students. In honor of Valentine’s Day, Grande used a love affair metaphor to explain his passion for Wilkes.
“From my first introduction to Wilkes I’ve sort of had a bit of a love affair,” Gandre said. “This is like the engagement period right now, but unfortunately the university is two-timing on me; I’ve got to win the final heart of the university and be chosen to get married.” Although Gandre has few plans for Wilkes presently, as he is not familiar with the issues of the institution. He feels the true core of the university resides within the people who make up the student, faculty and staff population.
In the future, Gandre plans to implement changes that correlate with Wilkes’ mission, vision and values. Before he does so, Gandre feels he needs to become more engaged on campus first.
A strong on-campus presence is something Gandre deems of high importance. In order to reach out to students, he plans to make frequent visits to the campus cafeteria and classrooms. Gandre explained he would rather approach students personally, since students are busy and often don’t show up to scheduled gatherings. By reaching out himself, Gandre believes his interaction with students will be more natural and effective. He hopes students will be comfortable talking with him if he is chosen as the next president.
Because of the recent cuts in state funding, Gandre understands financial issues may become a setback to the institution.  Gandre stated that all cuts have a long-term effect. However, if cuts need to be made, he would make eliminations that have the least short-term effect on students. If programs were at stake of depletion, Gandre would consider how things can be done differently in a way that is more efficient.
Gandre said it is vital to include faculty, staff and administration in order to make the best decisions for the institution.
Although state funding has been cut, Gandre believes PA. will eventually be able to provide funds again in the future. In order to assure funding revival, Gandre suggested that Wilkes maintain a positive relationship with state legislatures.
Gandre feels the other candidates were carefully chosen but hopes he is still the best choice for Wilkes. He aspires to become the university president because he loved being a “chief officer” as a dean and is excited to work with the students, faculty and staff at Wilkes.
“I loved being a dean it was probably the best job I’ve ever had,” Gandre said. “And being president is kind of a big deal, you get the chance to work with the entire community in ways that inspire and motivate.”
Dr. Molly Smith, former president of Manhattanville College in New York, who also visited campus last week, recognizes the value Wilkes puts on diversity. Although she understands Wilkes has a rich history of diversity on campus, Smith would like to increase the institution involvement with the UN. She believes the world is becoming a diverse place and it is important that students understand different cultures in order to be successful.
“If you are going to succeed in 2050 you’re going to have to know and understand the importance of diversity,” Smith said. “We would be failing if we didn’t anticipate that.”
Before coming to Wilkes, Smith said she looked for references to her Indian heritage to make herself feel more at home. After finding a Thai restaurant that offered her favorite cuisine within walking distance, she knew she was on the right track. While researching Wilkes further, she was captivated by the institutions tie to community and the beauty of the campus’ old buildings.
Smith noted how lucky Wilkes is to be close to the community. She has worked on college campuses that are bound by fencing because of the dangers of the location. Smith understands that Wilkes has an identity as a thriving member of the community of Wilkes-Barre. Part of her vision for the institution is to strengthen the college’s ties to the area while expanding the institution globally, “preserve your core while extending your footprint.”
Because she believes that students can unite through various clubs offered on campus, Smith encourages students to enjoy college by getting involved.
“You know you’re in an extraordinary enviable position as students, I don’t think you quite realize,” Smith said. “By the time you reach your fourth year and you’re about ready to get out, you will realize all the things that are precious about being a student (and) make the most of it.”
A big issue Smith hopes to address if chosen as president is the cost of education. Smith suggested that the cost of education is a big issue everywhere and many are financially unable to attain higher education.
A goal of hers is to work on fundraising and make education more accessible by offering scholarships. Overall, Smith hopes to increase access for students by providing funds that will make college more affordable.
Although Smith worked at three places for short periods of time, she is looking at Wilkes with the intention of staying until the end of her career. When asked about her job record, Smith stated she didn’t stay long at her previous positions for various reasons. Smith intended to stay at Manhattanville until her career was finished; however, it didn’t work out. Her career goal is to help lead an institution during her last 10 to 12 years of work.
Students who have attended the candidate forums feel that the two candidates, who have come to campus so far, are very different although both would be fit for the job.
“I think that we definetly have some strong candidates,” said junior accounting and business administration major, John Sweeney.
The Wilkes portal will offer a survey for students to voice their opinion on the presidential candidates.
Dr. Timothy Leahy will visit Wilkes Tuesday at 5p.m. in the student union building.