William Burnstein speaks on his youth and his times at Ohio State University at Sinclair Auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Town Hall meetings have been held in for the International Affairs search. (Cody Israel/B&W Photo)

Students invited to weigh in on Office of International Affairs candidate search

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Following the resignation of Mohamed El-Aasser last February, Patrick Farrell, Lehigh’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, began the search to find a new vice president for the Office of International Affairs.

The Office of International Affairs is intended to integrate and expand the Lehigh community with international academic institutions in an effort to transform into a more globally-minded university.

Gary Sasso, the dean of the College of Education, is the head chairperson for the search committee. The committee is comprised of 37 members – including university trustees, deans, professors, two undergraduate students and one graduate student – representing Lehigh’s four colleges.

Undergraduate representative Savannah Boylan, ’15, was selected as a part of the search committee due to her involvement in the LU/UN Partnership, her position as president of the Global Union and her interactions with the Office of International Affairs while studying abroad.

As a student representative, her role was to represent the undergraduate student body throughout the search.

“I was able to talk to various students and give the search firm the perspective of an undergraduate student,” Boylan said. “The greatest thing about being a part of the committee was that I had an equal voice on the committee as every other member.”

Boylan and graduate student representative Petrina Davidson felt they needed to include the entire student body in the search, and decided to include a student town hall.

“Although there was very little student participation, those who did show up were very passionate and offered wonderful insight and suggestion for the new position,” Boylan said.

The first process in searching for a new provost was to hold a town hall meeting on Feb. 25 to discuss the qualifications for the prospective candidate.

Sasso said the committee is looking for someone with a background in global and international education, as well as someone who can help lead the office in a strategic direction and work collaboratively with the community.

Paul Salerni, a search committee member and Lehigh music professor, also commented on the qualifications the committee was looking for in a provost.

“We need someone who has a vision on how to take campus and broaden international scope and global confidence in students,” Salerni said. “They need to be a good administrator and scholar to effectively get the job done.”

The interview process was held throughout the spring semester. Salerni said over 125 applicants were interviewed, then narrowed down to five finalists. These finalists were selected to attend one of five town halls in the fall semester where people in attendance could fill out a survey about why the candidate would be a good fit for Lehigh.

Farrell said students who attended the town hall meetings were able to give feedback through a survey to the committee. He said the purpose of the survey is to understand what the town hall attendees thought about each candidate.

While students were encouraged to participate, many did not.

“I think the lack of student involvement stems from the fact many students are very apathetic to what is happening on our campus,” Boylan said. “Although it is hard to get students involved, Lehigh needs to keep having events to let students know that if they want, their voices can be heard and will be heard. All students have to do is act.”

The final town hall meeting was held Sept. 10.

“I expect (we will select the new vice president for International Affairs) within the next few weeks,” Farrell said. “President Simon and I will meet with the search committee and discuss their views as well as any feedback they may have received from attendees of the Town Halls. We will make the final decision.”

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