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Four Candidates vie for presidency

Anneliese Woolford | Monday, November 17, 2003

As Saint Mary’s presidential search process enters its most crucial stage, both the search committee and Board of Trustees are relying heavily on student input.

The search process remained open to students, who were granted an active voice in nominating, interviewing and choosing their next president.

The most direct medium for student involvement in the process has been the student-candidate luncheons held for candidates during their recent campus visits. The luncheons took place in the west wing of the Noble Family Dining Hall and followed a question and answer format.

The candidates’ curriculum vitaes were available for on-campus viewing 24 hours prior to their arrival through the Presidential Search link on Saint Mary’s Web site. Students found the information beneficial because it increased their knowledge of each candidate.

“I looked into all of the information the College provided for students, but didn’t do any outside research,” said senior Sarah Bailey. “I think it really helped students to have the information ahead of time because they could generate questions. [Candidates] didn’t have to go over things that were already covered in their CV.”

According to students, all candidates willingly answered questions presented at the luncheons, granting the opportunity to learn more about their character, background and future goals should they be named to the position.

“Overall, I liked that all four candidates were unique,” Bailey said. “Each one had their own perspectives and came from diverse backgrounds.”

Senior Shannon Maloney found specific attributes she liked about each candidate.

Maloney said she admired Josefina Baltodano’s fundraising ideas and economic background. She liked Gail Baker’s approach to diversity and her sensitivity to various issues around campus. Maloney noted Susan Keys’ sincerity of student concerns and her interest in gaining student opinion. However, Carol Mooney is the candidate Maloney said she identified with most.

“I think [Mooney] had the strongest understanding of our mission,” she said. “She understands the past [and] present and envisions a lot going on in the future.”

Both Bailey and Maloney attended all four student-candidate luncheons and applaud the search committee for their choice of candidates. They agreed that each had strengths in individual areas and understood the values of a Catholic women’s college to maintain in the future.

“These women didn’t seem like they took traditional steps to come to this point,” Maloney said. “They all had their own paths and made their own way to get here. I think they’re all very willing and ready to accept what happens.”

After each candidate’s visit, students were encouraged to complete feedback forms, also available to the on-campus community at the Presidential Search website. The form asked students to rank each candidate in certain areas on a scale from one to four, in addition to allowing space for general comments.

“Basically the form asked questions about how individuals felt the candidate was effective in different areas,” said Elizabeth Jablonski-Diehl, student representative on the search committee and student body president. “The questions described the skills that a president would need.”

The feedback forms will be organized by Korn Ferry International, the firm hired by Saint Mary’s to aid in the presidential search, before results are delivered to the search committee for evaluation.

Overall, Saint Mary’s students said they feel honored to be involved and realize that an open process is unlikely to occur at other institutions.

“I was just excited that we had the opportunity to take part in this process, and I hope it continues that we have further student involvement in other areas,” Maloney said. “I’m excited for all four women and confident that the search committee will make the best decision.”