Ferrum Welcomes Back Braaten, Searches For Replacement

by Patrick Duggan 

Dr. Jennifer Braaten’s office has not changed much since she retired. “All of my books are still on the shelf,” she sBraatenaid, nursing a freshly casted broken wrist. Her striking western landscape is still hanging on the wall left of her desk, and her furniture is arranged in the same pattern around her coffee table. It almost seems as if the previous year never happened.

This past April, Dr. Joseph “Jodye” Spooner was inexplicably “released” from his contract, ending his one-year tenure as Ferrum College’s president. Dr. Braaten, who retired one year earlier, returned to campus as interim president. She plans to stay either for the duration of the semester or until a new president is hired. Braaten says the search is going well and expects the college will ll the position by December of this year. The search committee is composed of nine individuals significant to Ferrum’s community; six are members of the Board of Trustees, the only authority capable of hiring or ring a president. The other three are active members of Ferrum’s campus.

“Everyone is contributing and everyone is listening to each other,” Braaten said. “The student and faculty representatives are both making significant contributions.”

According to Braaten, Associate Professor of Accounting Dr. Christine Stinson has taken a leading role in the search and is representing faculty. Sophomore Casey Hawkins, who is both SGA secretary and Admissions Ambassador, is representing Ferrum students on the committee. Director of Advancement Services Sara Jamison is serving as the staff representative. Hawkins describes the committee as both an individual and collective effort.

“We’re looking for whatever the college needs and what is best for it to move forward,” Hawkins said. “We work as a whole, putting in our opinions and measuring the pros and cons of each candidate. My individual role is to represent the students.”

The search process is different this time around. In 2016, Braaten and the committee conducted an “open search,” meaning that they accepted applications from a wide variety of hopefuls from all over the country. This time, the search is “targeted,” skimming down the selection pool.

“A targeted search is professional and con dential, but has ‘prequali ed candidates’ who generally have already served as president, provost, or vice president at other institutions,” Braaten said. “The majority have a proven track record of success in comparable higher education institutions and positions.”

The committee is looking for candidates with a specifi9c set of skills and characteristics. Braaten identified a list of specific duties required of the president:

“A president reports only to the board. Some of his/her duties include focusing the history, mission and Methodist denominational connection of the college; preparing a strategic plan and meeting enrollment, retention and nancial goals; recruiting and retaining excellent faculty and ensuring SACS approved academic and student life programs; maintaining a balanced budget at all times; building endowment and ensuring fundraising and community relations; understanding legal, insurance and risk management issues; collaborating with a senior team who all have appropriate credentials and experience; role modeling integrity, honesty, and character.”

Spooner’s sudden exit stirred up uncertainty and distrust at Ferrum College. Student reactions lit up social media after the announcement. Petitions circulated, demanding either transparency from the Board of Trustees or the reinstatement of Spooner. Braaten relates to the frustration and confusion surrounding Spooner’s departure, but is confident Ferrum will overcome the controversy. “Change in leadership, policy and procedure can be difficult,” Braaten said. “Ferrum students are very strong and have great faculty, coaches, mentors, advisors and staff members who support them in all that they do.”

Ferrum administrators and the board are committed to student success and are always working to enhance the quality of students’ education experience. We are trying to provide better facilities, more services, increased opportunities, additional internships, more scholarships and financial aid. The board has the ultimate fiduciary responsibility to evaluate the president and to ensure that the college remains strong in perpetuity.”

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