Uncertainty is perhaps the best word to describe how the student body of Fairfield University has felt ever since the announcement of Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.’s departure as president of the University. While former University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Lynn Babington, PhD, RN, has assumed the position of interim president until June, little information has been revealed as to the progress of the presidential search.
The Mirror reported in a previous issue that Fr. von Arx. was appointed Superior of the LaFarge House Jesuit Community in Cambridge, Mass. while Babington will begin her term as president of Chaminade University, in Honolulu, Hawaii after her time as interim president concludes.
However, on Feb. 8 the Presidential Search Committee reported in an email to the student body that the committee has narrowed down their pool of applicants. According to Jenn Anderson, vice president of Marketing and Communications, the committee is in the process of meeting with 10 candidates for an initial round of interviews, but are still accepting more applications for the position.
“The presidential search is progressing on schedule,” said Anderson.
Despite this, Andrew McMahon ‘89 P’13’19, chair of the Presidential Search Committee, noted that the process of sifting through applications to determine the most qualified applicants “was not an easy task, given the interest level for the role.” The search firm, Russell Reynolds, has been working with the Presidential Search Committee. The firm has reviewed over hundreds of candidates and the search committee has reviewed several dozen applicants in depth, according to Anderson.
“Our current slate of candidates has an impressive set of backgrounds, skills and accomplishments,” stated McMahon.
Anderson went on to explain that the committee’s speedy progress has been mostly due in part to responses from the community. “This feedback was essential in understanding what the priorities and opportunities might be and what is most top of mind for our community,” she said.
Many students may also be wondering what the backgrounds of each of the candidates being considered by the search committee are, including whether or not the the applicants are Jesuit or non-Jesuit and what universities or organizations they have come from. However, according to Anderson, background information on each of the candidates cannot be disclosed at this time due to confidentiality concerns.
“There are a wide variety of qualified candidates, each with unique and relevant backgrounds that align with the strategic needs of the University,” she said.
While the backgrounds of the applicants have yet to be revealed, many students feel that a Jesuit candidate would be preferable given the identity of the University. Freshman Anna Derrane, for example, feels that the University’s future president “can represent our school better if they come from a Jesuit background.”
On the other hand, John Rodino ‘18 feels that a lay president would be refreshing for the University, seeing as the University has never been operated by a non-Jesuit president. According to Rodino, a lay president would add a new perspective to the University.
“It is a Catholic university so preference [goes to] those kind of people but if you find someone more qualified that might do a better job, then go for it,” Rodino said.
If students would like to get updates on the status of the presidential search process, they can view fairfield.edu/presidential-search.