By Lucy Altman-Newell '17
Since the news of President Lori Bettison-Varga’s departure from Scripps College was announced in July 2015, one of the immediate questions was, “How will we find the next president of the College?”
In short, the responsibility of finding the ninth President of the College is that of the Board of Trustees, which has already established a Presidential Search Committee as well as a search website (scrippscollege.edu/presidential-search) to keep members of the college informed and involved, and which has been sending out regular email updates to keep the community informed regarding the search’s progress.
"The search committee will be composed of trustees, faculty, students, alumnae, and staff to ensure that all of the College’s constituencies have an opportunity to help define and prioritize the desired attributes of our next president,” stated a July 20 email to the Scripps College community from Board of Trustees Chair Mark Herron.
The co-chairs of the Scripps College Presidential Search Committee are Bob Sacks (trustee since 2014 and parent of a recent Scripps alumna) and Betsy Weinberg Smith ’74 (trustee since 1995 and vice chair of the Board of Trustees since 2009). Other trustee members of the search committee include Ellen Clark Brown, Barbara Bruner ’76, Libby Greig DeMeo ’95, Mark Herron (board chair), Linda Davis Taylor P’11, and Lynne Thompson ’72. Interim President-Elect Amy Marcus-Newhall has also been appointed to the committee. Scripps Associated Students President Minjoo Kim ’16, Nancy Neiman Auerbach (Mary W. Johnson Professorship in Teaching and professor of politics), Lara Deeb (professor of anthropology), and Dion Scott-Kakures (professor of philosophy) are the newest members of the search committee.
Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates is the search firm that has been hired to assist with and guide the committee in its national search. This firm was chosen “based on their extensive experience in higher education; track record of hiring presidents and academic and administrative officers at private liberal arts colleges; and familiarity with—and appreciation for—Scripps’ unique position and strengths,” according to a Sept. 3 email sent to the Scripps College community.
The Presidential Search Committee hopes to recommend a candidate to the Board of Trustees by Spring 2016, and will post updates on the search at scrippscollege.edu/presidential-search. Community input is welcomed and appreciated; community members are invited to nominate candidates by emailing and to ask questions or share feedback and suggestions to the search committee by emailing . An information session will be held on Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in Balch Auditorium, and input forums will be held on Sept. 24 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sept. 25 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in the Humanities Auditorium. Additionally, community members are invited to take a stakeholder survey at http://www.scrippscollege.edu/president/presidential-search/survey.
The Scripps Voice was able to correspond with Presidential Search Committee Co-Chairs Bob Sacks and Betsy Weinberg Smith about the presidential transition at Scripps:
The Scripps Voice: In the email to the Scripps community, it was stated that there will be opportunities to participate in the Presidential search process. Can you tell me more specifically what these opportunities will look like, especially when it comes to student input?
Presidential Search Committee: It is very important for the board to obtain and consider the input of members of all of the constituencies in the Scripps community as to the qualities they would like to see in the College’s next president. In the weeks ahead, the Presidential Search Committee will be reaching out not only to students, but also to faculty, staff, alumnae, and parents for their views on the desired attributes, expectations, and priorities for President Bettison-Varga’s successor. There are specific ways students can participate: Our search consultant, Shelly Storbeck, will be meeting with students in mid-September to provide students an opportunity to share their views. We also have created a web address—scrippscollege.edu/presidential-search—where students and others may provide input to the committee and can even nominate candidates for consideration by the committee if they wish. We, the co-chairs of the search committee, will be meeting with students on September 17 to describe the search process and how it will work. Also, in addition to the six alumnae on the Committee, as has been previously announced, Scripps Associated Students President Minjoo Kim ’16 will be serving as a member of the Committee. Her perspective as a current student will help ensure that the Committee has broad input as it goes about this very important responsibility.
TSV: Can you tell me a bit about the process of selecting a new president? How are the candidates recruited, how are they chosen for consideration, what is the College looking for, etc.?
PSC: The Board of Trustees appointed the Presidential Search Committee to manage the search and recruitment process and to identify and attract the best candidate possible to serve as the next President of the College. The precise qualifications and characteristics of the ideal president will be developed and refined by the committee based on community input. The co-chairs of the search committee will visit campus on September 17 to meet with students, faculty, and staff and describe the search process in greater detail.
TSV: The initial search for an inaugural Director of the LASPA Center was unsuccessful, and a second search was required to find and hire Lisa Watson, who is doing an outstanding job getting the Center up and running. The search lasted over a year, and many students were very upset that Margo Okazawa-Rey was not selected for the position during the initial search. How will you keep the presidential search transparent, and how much of a say will Scripps students really have?
PSC: Appointing the President of the College is the responsibility of the Board of Trustees. In many ways it is the board’s most important responsibility given that the president is the face of the College and is responsible, reporting to the board, for the College’s day-to-day operation. The board established the Search Committee and has approved the outreach efforts noted above to ensure that the differing perspectives and insights of the Scripps community—students, faculty, staff, alumnae, and parents—will be considered in the selection of our next president. Updates to the Scripps website will keep everyone apprised of our progress.
TSV: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
PSC: President Bettison-Varga has impacted the community in very positive ways, and we are sorry to see her leave the College. But Scripps is in a fortunate position – highly ranked among the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities, with annual increases in the number of applications, a healthy financial position, and an outstanding faculty and student body. We have an opportunity to appoint a president with the capacity, experience, and vision to build on our strong foundation and to help shape an even brighter future for Scripps College.