Presidential Search Update: Transition Committee forms

President Paula J. Carlson,  Luther’s 10th president will be retiring in the spring of 2019.

Photo courtesy of luther.edu

President Paula J. Carlson, Luther’s 10th president will be retiring in the spring of 2019.

Forrest Stewart, Staff Writer

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As the presidential search committee draws closer to selecting and announcing President Paula  Carlson’s successor, additional preparation, including the formation of a presidential transition committee, is underway.

The transition committee, chaired by Board of Regents member Sandee Joppa (‘87), had its first meeting on Feb. 7, 2019. Joppa, who is also the spokesperson for the transition committee, represents several constituencies related to the college.

“We have really a broad committee representing the breadth of the Luther constituency [including] current and emeriti regents, current and emeriti faculty, administrators, staff, students, and Decorah community members,” Joppa said. “Folks are very engaged and extremely excited.”

Joppa also noted that the committee has two main responsibilities: to acknowledge Carlson’s achievements and introduce the incoming president.

“The first piece of this is to celebrate the contributions and the achievements of President Carlson with the broad Luther community during the remaining months of her presidency,”  Joppa said. “So, there’s a ‘recognizing President Carlson’ piece of this and then the longer standing work that will continue further in terms of time, is to introduce and welcome our next president.”

The details of what will be included in the celebration of President Carlson’s time at Luther are not yet publicly available.

The committee’s role as an on-boarder for Luther’s 11th president will begin when the presidential search committee selects a candidate.

“It [involves] helping give advice, counsel, and suggestions,” Joppa said. “There’s also a hospitality piece in order to welcome someone new, and it’s going to really depend on who [the selected candidate] is. It’s also thinking about opportunities for easy wins and how to prioritize work that might be done. You only have so much time.”

Joppa acknowledged that the new president might have priorities that do not line up exactly with those set out by the transition committee.

“Ultimately the incoming president is going to have some of their own ideas as well,” Joppa said. “But [we want to be] very intentional about [saying] ‘here are our suggestions by stakeholder groups as to how you might spend your first days and months in the new role’.”

The presidential transition team currently has 24 members although Joppa noted that this number will probably grow as the process progresses. Additionally, many of the members fall into more than one of the constituencies represented on the committee.

Joppa herself is a former Luther student, a member of the Board of Regents, and a parent of a recent Luther student. She referenced her background as a Human Resources executive as experience that will be relevant while chairing the committee.

“I’ve onboarded a lot of different executives in my time and so, while this is a college president we’re talking about, there are certainly elements that are consistent with onboarding people in business,” Joppa said.

Photo courtesy of luther.edu
Predecessor of President Paula J Carlson: H. George Anderson (1982-1995).

The committee includes two current Luther students: Madilyn Heinke (’20) and John Lof (’20). They were selected in order to represent the student body and Joppa highlighted their diverse interests and roles on campus.

“We wanted a couple of key leaders on campus and we wanted to make sure that they were folks who kind of worked at different parts [of campus],” Joppa said. “You’ve got one who is very involved in student senate and the music program at Luther and you’ve got one who’s more on the athletics side and does a number of other things. So I think [they’re] kind of a good complement to one another.”

Photo courtesy of luther.edu
Predecessor of President Paula J Carlson: Jeffrey D. Baker (1996-1999).

Joppa added that the fact that Heinke and Lof will both be on campus next year played a role in their selection.

“We wanted somebody who has been around for a little while but also someone that was going to be there for the full academic year of a new presidency,” Joppa said.

Student senate representative Collin Zollinger (‘20) expressed his relief to hear that there was student involvement on both the search and transition committees.

“I feel that student involvement in this process is key to finding a president dedicated to this institution,” Zollinger said. “Without student involvement we lose the ability to develop an immediate student connection to the new president.”

Zollinger added that he wishes there was more student involvement in both processes.

“I feel that there could be more student involvement in this process,” Zollinger said. “I understand that a handful of students have been involved, however I feel that the search process could benefit from a deeper student connection with the presidential candidates.

suggestions. There’s also a hospitality piece in order to welcome someone new,” Joppa said. “And it’s going to really depend on who [the selected candidate] is in terms of what that looks like. It’s also thinking about opportunities for easy wins and how to prioritize work that might be done. You only have so much time.”

Photo courtesy of Luther.edu
Predecessor of President Paula J Carlson: Richard L. Torgerson (1999-2013).

Joppa acknowledged that the new president might have priorities that don’t line up exactly with those set out by the transition committee.

“Ultimately the incoming president is going to have some of their own ideas as well,” Joppa said. “But [we want to be] very intentional about [saying] ‘here are our suggestions by stakeholder groups as to how you might spend your first days and months in the new role’.”

The presidential transition team currently has 24 members although Joppa noted that this number will probably grow as the process progresses. Additionally, many of the members fall into more than one of the constituencies represented on the committee. Joppa herself is a former Luther student, a member of the Board of Regents, and a parent of a recent Luther student. She referenced her background as a Human Resources executive as experience that will be relevant while chairing the committee.

“I’ve onboarded a lot of different executives in my time and so, while this is a college president we’re talking about, there are certainly elements that are consistent with onboarding people in business,” Joppa said.

The committee includes two current Luther students: Madilyn Heinke (’20) and John Lof (’20). They were selected in order to represent the student body and Joppa highlighted their diverse interests and roles on campus.

“We wanted a couple of key leaders on campus and we wanted to make sure that they were folks who kind of worked at different parts [of campus],” Joppa said. “You’ve got one who is very involved in student senate and the music program at Luther and you’ve got one who’s more on the athletics side and does a number of other things. So I think [they’re] kind of a good complement to one another.”

Joppa added that the fact that Heinke and Lof will both be on campus next year played a role in their selection.

“We wanted somebody who has been around for a little while but also someone that was going to be there for the full academic year of a new presidency,” Joppa said.

Student senate representative Collin Zollinger (‘20) indicated that he was relieved to hear about student involvement on both the search and transition committees.

“I feel that student involvement in this process is key to finding a president dedicated to this institution,” Zollinger said. “Without student involvement we lose the ability to develop an immediate student connection to the new president.”

Zollinger added that he wishes there was more student involvement in both processes.

“I feel that there could be more student involvement in this process,” Zollinger said. “I understand that a handful of students have been involved, however I feel that the search process could benefit from a deeper student connection with the presidential candidates.

directors of different programs, and people in different departments. These trainings helped prepare Luther faculty and staff with more skills to respond to situations in a culturally appropriate way.

Scott works with colleagues and students across campus to promote equity and inclusion in academia, residential, co-curricular, and professional life of the college. She serves as a member of Carlson’s senior leadership team, and worked with Student Life on a review of a number of the policies and procedures of Luther College.

“She is a key leader on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion across the college,” Carlson said.

According to Taylor-Browne, the creation of Center for Intercultural Engagement and Student Success was another change that Scott brought to Luther. The CIES office was created to work differently than a diversity center to reflect new ideas and match the practices of other colleges and universities across the United States. Scott is responsible for the oversight of the CIES office as Taylor-Browne’s direct supervisor.

After the hate incidents on campus during the 2017-2018 academic year, she worked to make it possible to have a workshop and listening session through the position of Dean for Institutional Equity and Inclusion. The workshops explained to people how to manage situations like Luther experienced to create more effective outcomes. Her work was meaningful for many students on campus, including International Student Ambassador Tamar Tedla (‘20).

“Just with her presence at different events with her being both instrumental in creating the events and then her attendance there really speaks volumes to how much she cares about not only her students but to have information about students who feel marginalized be heard,” Tedla said. “Her work here really just makes me feel a little bit better about being here.”

When asked whether or not Scott will remain on campus in some capacity, Carlson and Scott are still in discussion about that. The position is looking to be fulfilled by a new candidate who will bring to the job the kind of experience and abilities needed to build on to what Scott has already done.

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