National search for new leader of academic affairs begins


Courtesy/Jake LaMontagne

Drone footage of the Saint Anselm College Geisel Library, a hotspot of student activities

Flannery Moore, Crier Staff

Athletics, clubs, community, and Benedictine faith life are all factors that make Saint Anselm College the school that it is. Academics, however, are undoubtedly the most significant part of the Saint Anselm experience, so it is vital that the right person oversees this aspect of the College. The current nationwide search for a new Vice President of Academic Affairs, which began on September 13, seeks to find that person.

The position of VPAA was previously held by Brother Isaac Murphy. He described the position as the “chief academic officer of the college,” holding responsibilities that encompass everything bearing academic credit. While the school also has a Dean of the College as well as an academic dean for each class of students, there is a split in between the Dean’s responsibilities and the VPAA’s responsibilities – the Dean is responsible for “operational activities and the day to day running of the College,” and the VPAA oversees the strategic activities aspect of running the College.

According to Mike Riegel, co-chair of the VPAA Search Committee and Chair of the Board of Trustees Academic Affairs Committee, the process started with President Favazza. Favazza built “a diverse search committee comprising faculty, staff, monastic community, and trustees” and hired a national search firm, AGB Search, to assist in the process.

Riegel said that the committee conducted 15 separate listening sessions “to get a sense of what everyone hopes for from the role and is looking for in the role” of VPAA. These sessions were attended by students, faculty, staff, members of the monastic community, and members of the administration. In total, the sessions were attended by 122 people, including 40 who completed follow up questionnaires submitted by our community. Riegel stated that this left the committee with “almost a hundred pages of notes of input from the college community on what people want to see in this role.”

Riegel added that all of that input will be taken into committee meetings so the committee can “go through it to understand how to craft a leadership profile – a document that forms the basis of the recruiting process.” They hope to get a pool of candidates in the fall, hold Zoom interviews around January, and then hold final interviews in time for a candidate to be in place by the start of the next academic year, in July.

Professor Tauna Sisco, co-chair of the VPAA Search Committee, stated that a significant part of the role is “both creating and furthering strategic plans and strategic initiatives.” She described plans for “academic innovation,” involving the launch of graduate programs as well as ensuring that “academics are integrated with engaged learning opportunities and career readiness.” The ultimate purpose of such innovations is to “bridge the classroom to the outside world.”

She added that an equally important aspect of the VPAA role is the opportunity to focus on access and inclusion as a part of the strategic plan, taking steps such as removing any and all enrollment barriers for traditionally underrepresented potential students. Facilitating academic success for all students is perhaps the most important job of a VPAA.

According to Br. Isaac, one of the qualities that makes a good VPAA is the ability to think long term. He described the need for someone in that role to be able to envision “how the college should be positioning itself not only for the short term but for 3 years or 5 years from now.” He also added that, given the nature of the position being to aid students in their academic careers, that if students are called upon to give their input, they should definitely take that opportunity. As stated by Prof. Sisco, student input was not only invited but hugely important in the listening sessions.

In the words of Prof. Sisco, “we’re all here to make this the best Benedictine Catholic college for our students with a great quality of teaching and instruction,” and ultimately the search for a Vice President of Academic Affairs seeks to do just that.