Alex Gonzalez

The June 5, 2017 announcement by the Whittier College Board of Trustees that President Sharon D. Herzberger would be retiring at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year has instigated a nationwide search to find her replacement. 

Herzberger has served as Whittier’s president since 2005. The committee charged with searching for Whittier’s next president is comprised of students, faculty and administration.  Updates during her tenure include the Ettinger Lounge and the renovation of the Science and Learning Center.  Herzberger also used “Walk and Talks” and “President for a Day” traditions to give the school administration a human face. 

“I remember being really impressed by her doing Walk and Talks; slowing down to spend time with students to get to know us and find out what was on our minds,” said second year Laine Kotoski. “She’s leaving behind a lasting legacy and big shoes to fill, as the College anxiously awaits news of the next President.”

“It’s been 13 years since the last Presidential Search Committee,” said Committee Co-Chair Alan Lund. “The College community has changed a lot since then so we’re trying to figure out what the next great President looks like.”

The Search Committee, led by Co-Chairs and Board of Trustee members Alan Lund and Jim Brown, consists of five Board of Trustee members, four administrators, three faculty members, and one student. 

Third-year Cristian Alcantara, the Student Body Representative of the Search Committee, was appointed over the summer by Co-Chairman Brown after being referenced by Dean Joel Perez and OEI Director Jenny Guerra. 

“The role of the student representative is to take all the concerns or feedback from the students and bring them up to the committee,”said Alcantara, “So we can build the profile that we want from the president. Also , later on when we narrow down the search, I can arrange meetings so that the students can meet the candidates.” 

Alcantara is also a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)student who played an instrumental role in establishing the Poet Student Sanctuary Policy introduced in Spring 2017.  As Student Body Representative, Alcantara not only hopes to provide a voice for students, but also wishes to advocate for students who face uncertainty following the proposed DACA repeal.

“I want a president who will work with the Poet Student Sanctuary Protection Policy, just because it’s something that I really identify with,” said Alcantara. “Not only is the Protection Policy important, it’s also important to maintain an inclusive campus for all identities.”

The search is being facilitated by Whit-Kiefer, a consulting firm in Southern California. Whit-Kiefer and the Search Committee will collaborate to find the next president. Over the course of two days (Sep. 14 and 15), Committee representatives and consultants from Whit-Kiefer held 13 different events to try and reach a broad constituency about desirable characteristics in a Presidential candidate. These groups include: faculty, alumni, management, and students. Common characteristics suggested by all the groups were charisma, passion, dedication, and, most importantly, an inclusive attitude to accept everyone no matter their heritage, gender, or sexual orientation. 

Although the meetings provided insight into the search process and served as an introduction to members of the committee, those in attendance noticed a lackluster showing by the Poet community.  The usual commotion of Ettinger Lounge was replaced by a small group of school administrators and scattered pockets of students.

“Honestly, I was really disappointed that a lack of students showed up,” said Alcantara.  “After speaking with a lot of students on campus and asking what they thought about the open forums, they said there was uncertainty on the roles of the President. They felt like they didn’t know what to ask or know what they were looking for to begin with, so they didn’t really bring it up to the forum.” 

Following the meetings, Whit-Kiefer and the Search Committee will compile a physical document called “the leadership profile” containing information on the president’s responsibilities, their role within the community, and the characteristics important to the community. The document will be made public and used to inform potential candidates about the position. 

From now until around January, many candidates are expected to apply for the position. After the deadline, which is yet to be given, Whit-Kiefer will advise the Search Committee on strong candidates and will filter options to find a person who seems to fit the leadership profile. As of right now, the committee’s main job is to put together a leadership profile that sounds like the kind of president the students would like. This document will test the candidates so that only the person who possesses the same qualities the document describes can move on to the final steps and become president. Whit-Kiefer will also be lending a hand by showing the committee the strongest candidates.

The search for Herzberger’s successor will continue for the duration of Fall semester, with the list of candidates being finalized in January. The Quaker Campus will continue to cover the process as more information becomes available.