MONMOUTH — Western Oregon University is poised to officially be independent from the Oregon University System, which will dissolve on July 1.
With the board of trustees named, all that’s left is finding a replacement for President Mark Weiss, who will retire effective June 30.
After reading 45 applications for the post, four finalists were chosen to make campus visits, starting Wednesday (today) and continuing through Tuesday.
The four candidates scheduled to be interviewed for WOU’s presidency are Fernando Delgado, Christopher Ames, Margaret Madden and Rex Fuller.
Delgado, 48, currently working as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, said he was attracted to Western Oregon for a couple of reasons.
“The mission of the university, and the faculty and staff commitment to it,” he said. “The profile of the students and the geography itself played a role in that as well.”
Making the move back to the western states is something the San Francisco Bay Area native would look forward to, Delgado said.
He said the president needs to be embedded in the community both on and off campus.
“The president is often ‘the face’ for the university and has a primary role of making sure that campus is vibrant and healthy, connected to the external community,” Delgado said.
Ames, 58, works as the vice president of academic affairs at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va. He also was attracted to WOU’s mission of providing accessible, affordable, high-quality education.
“That’s an important niche in the higher education market today, and Western has done a really good job of it,” Ames said. “They have made the education gap a high priority, and had success with (closing that gap).”
Working in a small community is important to Ames.
“A small college can play a really big role in a small community,” he said.
“The university is an engine for economic development,” he added. “There needs to be that kind of coordination between the business and government of town.”
Madden, 62, is the provost and vice president for academic affairs at State University New York Potsdam, which has about the same size campus as Western, she said.
“I like being on a campus where the students’ learning comes first,” Madden said. “Senior administrators, like the president, can be engaged with the campus community in ways which are fun and exciting.”
She also is excited about continuing WOU’s mission of educating underserved students.
“Working with those kinds of students allows you to be part of an enterprise that really changes the prospects of students’ lives,” Madden said.
Sustaining enrollment and meeting the needs of the new workforce are some roles of the president, she said.
Fuller, 62, an economist and professor of public administration, has served as provost and vice president for the division of academic affairs at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash.
He appreciates the school’s history as a normal school, adding that the commitment to student learning is still evident in everything Western does.
“The size of the campus is an attraction,” Fuller noted. “It presents opportunities that a larger school loses.”
The small community gives an opportunity for the campus and town to have a close partnership, Fuller said.
“In smaller settings, it’s vital to have a working relationship,” he said. “The university can be a source of vibrancy to not only the community itself, but also to the entire region.”
Meet the Candidates:
Open forums are scheduled for each finalist, followed by a community reception.
Fernando Delgado: Open forum -- 3:30-5 p.m. Wednesday (today) at Rice Auditorium; community reception -- 5 -6:30 p.m. in the foyer.
Christopher Ames: Open forum -- 3:30-5 p.m. Thursday in the Pacific Room of Werner University Center; community reception -- 5-6:30 p.m.
Margaret Madden: Open forum -- 3:30-5 p.m. Monday at Rice Auditorium; community reception -- 5-6:30 p.m. in the foyer.
Rex Fuller: Open forum -- 3:30-5 p.m. Tuesday at Rice Auditorium; community reception – 5-6:30 p.m. in the foyer.