By Kylie Stamper
Staff reporter

A small number of candidates have been selected for preliminary interviews in the search for the next president at Southwestern College. Dick Merriman, president, resigned in December and will leave at the end of May.

The presidential search committee has narrowed the applicant pool to the group of semi-finalists who will participate in the second-to-last round of interviews before finalists are chosen.

In addition to the new president, the college will hire a psychology professor, a visiting scholar, a campus minister, a business faculty member, a full-time computer science professor, a technical director for TOMARI, and a Leadership program director.

Cheryl Rude, social sciences division chair, said, “Some things will change and I think that’s good for all of us. It may be uncomfortable but I think we have a great school and we have lots of foundational things that are excellent here.”

Shoshana Wernick, assistant professor of psychology, is filling an interim position for a second psychology professor.

Rude said they are adding a psychology professor because of the number of psychology majors in recent years. She said, “It will be fantastic for our department. We are busting out of the seams with majors in that area and we just need to be able to give more attention to our students. We’re really excited.”

Around 40 to 50 applicants applied for the psychology position and there have been candidates on campus all semester. A professor will be hired at the end of the year.

The psychology position is funded by the salary line formerly used for history. After the death of Phil Schmidt, professor of history, a second history professor was not hired. The social sciences division decided to use the history salary line for psychology to meet the demand of students coming into the program.

In addition to the psychology position, there is also a search being conducted in the business department to replace Saeed Yazdani, associate professor of business, who left at the end of first semester after being at SC for seven years.

There is also a search for a full-time computer science professor. Several candidates have applied and have visited campus but no decisions have been made.  Tom Jacobs, chair of computer science, communication, and English, said, “The search for someone to fill this position continues.”

Peter Heckman, academic dean, said, “It’s been a very interesting year. I think if we make these three hires they will be able to help our students a lot.”

Matt Sigler, visiting scholar and interim campus minister, will leave after two years to take the position of assistant professor of Western Theology at Seattle Pacific University. Sigler served as the visiting scholar and campus minister this year after Ashlee Alley, former campus minister, accepted a job with the Great Plains United Methodist Conference. The search for the next campus minister is ongoing and the next visiting scholar will be determined by a committee made up of Jackson Lashier, assistant professor of religion, Dan Falk, dean of students, Rude, Merriman, and others from local churches and within the Great Plains UMC.

Rude said, “The visiting scholar position is fashioned for people in the area of religion that are maybe not quite finished with their dissertation. It helps them have a place where they can work, teach, and strengthen their application out on the job market. This position also allows us to have a couple of new voices in the department.”

Sigler said, “It’s so important is to have a school with a strong sense of community and I think we have that here. I think that’s what holds us together.”

Sigler’s wife, Shannon, will also be leaving after this year. She currently teaches the Faith, Imagination, and the Arts class.

Committees are also searching for a new TOMARI Theatrical Arts and Technologies Center staff Technical Director, to replace Lee Jones who has recently been accepted into Graduate School, and a new Leadership director to allow Lindsey Wilke, director of Leadership, time with her newborn twins.

Besides the new faculty in the other departments, Stacy Sparks, associate professor of journalism, will be taking a sabbatical during the fall semester where she will focus on a photography project in the Winfield area. Her classes will be taught by Pam Thompson, adjunct English instructor. Thompson, Kenna Corley, coordinator of social networking, and Jacobs will advise student media while Sparks is away.

One thing is expected of all new faculty: the ability to connect with the students. Rude said, “If the candidates don’t resonate with students or we don’t feel like they have a desire or connection to be highly engaged with students we don’t think they will be very successful here so it’s a very important factor when we’re choosing.”

Kylie Stamper is a sophomore majoring in communication. You can email her at kylie.stamper@sckans.edu