The search for a permanent replacement for former Shippensburg University President George “Jody” Harpster continues this week, with several information sessions being held each day for a particular candidate.
Yesterday, candidate Steven Gavazzi met with SU students at 4 p.m. during an open forum in Old Main Chapel.
Before entering the ring to become the next SU president, Gavazzi received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Pennsylvania State University, before moving on to the University of Connecticut to receive a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, as well as a doctorate of philosophy (Ph.D) from the School of Family Studies.
After finishing school, Gavazzi served as a professor, lead director and dean and director of Ohio State University at Mansfield, Ohio. He also worked as a clinical and family therapist from 1984 to 1987.
During his forum, Gavazzi described his experiences growing up in Pennsylvania, before moving to Ohio, where he has lived and worked for the past 26 years.
“I appreciate all of the support and hospitality I’ve been shown so far,” Gavazzi said.
Gavazzi described SU as the perfect size campus for attracting new students, and criticized Ohio State for failing to meet the requirements of a typical “land-grant” university.
“This is a Goldilocks campus — you’re not too big, you’re not too small,” Gavazzi said.
Gavazzi also compared SU to hockey player Wayne Gretzky, claiming Gretzky was a successful hockey player because of his ability to know not where the puck was at any exact moment, but where it was headed. Gavazzi said Gretzky’s perception is symbolic of the educational environment at SU.
“I think in public education, Shippensburg goes where the puck is going to be,” Gavazzi said.
Gavazzi said if he is selected for this position, he plans to assemble a team of individuals that will keep his actions in check and ensure the commitments he made during his visit to SU are carried out.
Building upon this thought, Gavazzi said one person by themselves cannot lead an entire university.
“No one leader can be all things to all people,” Gavazzi said. “At the end of the day, the presidents are really unimportant when it comes to academics — the faculty are the important people.”
Several faculty members voiced concern for SU’s rising cost of tuition and the declining student enrollment rates. Gavazzi said the issue of price cannot be addressed if the issue of the university’s quality of education is not simultaneously raised in conversation.
“Very, very few schools haven’t seen enrollment declines,” Gavazzi said. “I think we need to be able to turn to the community and say ‘we need your help.’”
Methodist College President Kimberly Johnston, who is scheduled to meet during a forum in Old Main Chapel today at 4 p.m., studied at Widener and Penn State universities before serving as the dean of the Methodist College of Nursing from 2005–2006. She has served as Methodist College’s president since 2006.
In the past, Johnston served as the consultant evaluator for the higher learning commission, president of the American Health Sciences Educational Consortium and chairperson of the Illinois Association Colleges of Nursing.
Jonathan Levin will visit SU on Wednesday, and will meet with students during a forum at 4 p.m. in Old Main Chapel. From June 2013 to December 2016, Levin served as provost of the University of Mary Washington, located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, as well as Drew University’s dean of the college of liberal arts from 2008–2013.
Levin was also employed at Columbia University from 1991 to 2001, working in the department of English and comparative literature.
A fourth candidate will be visiting SU on Thursday, and will be meeting with students in Old Main Chapel at 4 p.m. The candidate’s identity will be announced in the near future.