CARBONDALE – The two finalists for the position of chancellor at Southern Illinois University had a final opportunity Wednesday to show why they should be hired.
Susan Ford, acting provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at SIU, and Sabah Randhawa, executive vice president and provost at Oregon State University met with the SIU Board of Trustees at the Stone Center on campus.
For months, the two candidates have been vying for the position.
Ford, sporting her 35-year lapel pin as an SIU employee, said Wednesday she has a very good sense of what things at the university cost.
She knows the university is facing financial challenges from the state, and the tendency has been to cut across the board to find money, she said. Those cuts are no longer going to work, because it will begin to harm the university educational programs.
“Now, we really have to use strategic cuts and think about how we can preserve the central core of what we are doing and what our central mission is as an institution,” Ford said.
Randhawa said it is unrealistic to think the budget and enrollment problems at SIU would dissipate overnight.
He acknowledged there are serious short-term challenges such as the budget that need to be addressed, but he said it needs to be thought about in a way that is long-term.
“It needs to be addressed in the context of really building an institution 10 years out, and what are the few things that will really (have SIU) uniquely positioned to contribute to Illinois, the nation and globally,” Randhawa said.
Although Ford has been with SIU for more than three decades, Randhawa said he is still confident in his chances to land the job.
He said SIU’s potential is what attracted him to the campus. It was a bit early for him to articulate his vision for the university, he said, without really knowing the university.
But, seeing SIU find three or four areas where it is going to be great in 10 years and beyond is something Randhawa would like to see.
Building a more stable financial institution, enrollment, graduation and retention rates are a part of that, he said.
He said SIU needs to make the best decision in terms of what is the best leadership to advance the institution at this point in time.
“Institutions need different leaders at different times no matter where they are, so the question really comes to where SIU is situation, in terms to the opportunities that exist out there – what makes sense for the institution,” Randhawa said.
Ford said the university needs to preserve the quality of the education it provides to students. SIU also needs to build on that quality so it will remain a destination where students can get a good, cost-effective education and go on to a great future, she said.
She acknowledges that she feels her experience at SIU is an advantage to her.
“I have a history and knowledge of the institution that may provide me the ability to provide more assistance than somebody who doesn’t know the history of the institution," Ford said. “I can use that knowledge and that investment to help build and move things into the future.”
SIU President Randy Dunn hopes to have the new chancellor on staff by the start of the fall semester.