Posted on: April 30, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Nick Stulga

Newly elected trustees Tracy Sullivan, Demetri Sianis and Eileen Kerlin Walsh pause for a moment following Tuesday’s meeting, during which the Board of Trustees was reorganized and Sullivan and Walsh were sworn in.

By Nick Stulga, Editor-in-Chief

Moraine Valley’s board room saw three new faces last week. With them could come new priorities for the college.

Two new trustees–Eileen Kerlin Walsh and Tracy Sullivan–were sworn in at the 5:15 p.m. board meeting on Tuesday. New student trustee Demetri Sianis made his first board meeting appearance. The board was also reorganized to fill a couple major spots that had been vacated, including board chair, previously held by Brian O’Neill.

Beth Kirkwood was unanimously elected the new chair. Patricia Murphy became vice chair and Tiffany Robinson became secretary. 

“I’m starting to feel like Tim Allen from Last Man Standing,” long-lasting trustee Joseph Murphy said during the meeting. Murphy has served since 2001.

Earlier in the year, current members Jaclyn O’Day (sworn in Jan. 24) and Tiffany Robinson (sworn in Jan. 31) replaced resigning members Bernadette Barrett and Kim Hastings Cristelli. Robinson is the first Black woman to serve on Moraine’s board.

The first big order of business for the newly reorganized board will be to name a new president for the college to replace Sylvia Jenkins, who is retiring in June.

Kerlin Walsh said she believes Moraine needs “a president who is as qualified, who has the background, the passion, the understanding, the commitment.”

The search is now down to three candidates: Pamela Haney, Moraine’s current vice president of Academic Affairs, Michelé Smith, vice president of Workforce Solutions Harper College, and Evon Walters, president of Northwest Region at Community College of Allegheny County. During open forums May 8, 10 and 11, the candidates will meet with faculty, staff and other members of the Moraine community, who will then provide feedback to the Board of Trustees to aid in the decision.

Photo by Nick Stulga
Circuit Court judge and former trustee Bernadette Barrett swears in Tracy Sullivan, as trustee Joseph Murphy applauds from behind.

As an adjunct faculty member at Moraine roughly 20 years ago, Kerlin Walsh taught Business Law, Legal Environment, and College 101. In 2021, she served as president of the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce and decided that running for Moraine’s board was the next logical step.

“I just thought now that this was a natural progression for me,” Kerlin Walsh said.

During her time at Moraine, child care was deducted from her salary to help take care of her boys, and she ended up actually owing the college money. That struck her as bizarre, seeing how much value she provided to her students.

“I do think we have to find a way to pay our adjunct faculty more than we pay them,” Kerlin Walsh said. She says in order to do so, coupled with her long-term goal of keeping tuition affordable, “we are going to have to recalibrate the budget.”

Tuition at Moraine was recently increased by $3 per credit hour for in-district students, and it will increase by another $3 for the fall semester. There are no current plans for future increases.

Kerlin Walsh said campaigning was similar to running a business like her own. She founded estate planning firm Kerlin Walsh Law in 2002, 14 years after moving to the U.S. from a small farm in Ireland.

“It was a tremendous amount of work,” she said. “A whole new language to learn.”

Sullivan also previously worked at Moraine, as director of purchasing, before making the move to Governor’s State University in January 1998. Like Kerlin Walsh, she said the election process was exhausting.

“I just wanted to make sure people knew that I’m a good person who works hard and wants to give back to a beautiful place,” Sullivan said. “I took time off work, and I was out there no matter what Mother Nature gave us.”

I do think we have to find a way to pay our adjunct faculty more than we pay them.

MV trustee Eileen Kerlin Walsh

Sullivan has been the associate vice president of procurement & business services at GSU since August 2021. She said she ran to give back to the Moraine community.

“I don’t know what the Moraine Valley Community College Board needs,” she said. “I just want to listen and hear the board’s needs and see how I can help.”

Sianis was elected Moraine’s new student trustee on April 6 in a tight election, winning by less than one percent of the vote. Out of 232 total votes, Sianis outdid opponent Francisco Gomez by 50.43 percent to 49.57 percent. 

“It was a very close election,” said Kent Marshall, dean of students and compliance officer.

Photo by Nick Stulga
Circuit Court judge Carolyn Gallagher swears in Eileen Kerlin Walsh.

Sianis is a freshman student who served as president of Amos Alonzo Stagg High School’s culinary club and was looking for another leadership role. He was also an officer in Stagg’s Key Club, which gives students an opportunity to provide community service.

“When you are an officer, you actually are in charge of some of the community projects,” Sianis said. 

Now, he’s looking to take his experience in leadership and use it to help Moraine.

“I wanted to try to be Student Trustee because I wanted to be able to do something good for the school,” Sianis said. “I wanted to try to do something good for the school before I leave.”

The new trustees all hope to make a difference for students. Part of that goal for Kerlin Walsh includes diminishing the stigma around community college, with the hope that students will become comfortable adding it to their resumes.

Near the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Jenkins had a message to all the trustees: “Thank you for your support of Moraine Valley Community College. And as trustee Sullivan mentioned earlier, it is the best community college in the world, and it’s because of the community support that we get.”