Posted on: May 13, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Emily Stephens

Evon Walters, Michelé Smith, and Pamela Haney are the final three contenders for Moraine Valley’s next president.

By Nick Stulga, Editor-in-Chief

The search for Moraine’s next president has been narrowed down to the final three candidates: Evon Walters, Michelé Smith, and Pamela Haney. 

The candidates met with faculty, staff and community members last week during a series of open forums. During this time, the audiences were able to pose questions to the finalists. Question topics included diversity and inclusion, enrollment, and school safety, amongst other things.

Walters has been in the community college sector for 22 years, starting out as vice president for student services at Onondaga Community College in New York. He currently is the Northwest Region president at Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania.

“Being in the community college sector is something that speaks to whether or not you want to make a difference, particularly for economically disadvantaged students, historically underrepresented students,” Walters said. “For me, I made that very intentional decision to say, ‘That’s what I wanted to do.'”

To represent some of these groups, Walters wants to create a welcoming environment by looking into programs and policies that make sure groups like the LGBTQ+ community feel invited into the college.

Moraine doesn’t need a shake up. What Moraine needs is someone with a vision that can help Moraine continue to move forward.

MV President Sylvia Jenkins

“Programs that I’ve done in the past that speak very directly to LBGTQ issues involve education, not only from a student perspective, but also from administrative, as well as faculty perspectives,” Walters said.

Smith says to address issues of diversity at Moraine she will listen to student and faculty requests when they feel unsupported.

“If there are people, students and employees and other groups who feel like this isn’t a place for them because there’s something we haven’t done yet, we want to hear that and then figure out how we can be responsive to it,” Smith said.

She says that two former LGTBQ+ employees felt comfortable confiding in her and that she will make sure the community feels heard.

“I’ve also been really supportive of the LGBTQ community,” Smith said. “Again, I feel like every person has a right to be heard and seen and valued.”

Walters says that he has put out internal and external surveys to students to make their voices heard. On top of that, he has held informal meetings with students to help gain insight on how he can better provide for the students, whether it be through programs or initiatives, or by providing resources.

“I think coming into the college, one of the first things I need to do is to assess ‘How do people get access to resources?'” Walters said. “I think that’s a start. And then the second piece of it: hear directly from the students in terms of what issues are.”

To better respond to community requests, Smith instituted a suggestion box when she first became dean at Harper College. Smith is now the vice president of workforce solutions at the school.

Photo by Nick Stulga
Moraine presidential finalist Evon Walters answers question from audience members at an open forum on May 8.

“The suggestion box was so valuable because you could write any suggestion you like, you could even enter them anonymously,” Smith said. “In the beginning, some people would write quirky things, but over time people really had ideas about how we could make the office work better, how we could make the division work better. 

“The best part is people got to know me and trust me because I would respond to every suggestion, even if it was wildly never going to happen.”

Another main issue brought up to both candidates is enrollment and student retention. Enrollment made a 7.3 percent rebound at the beginning of this semester, following multiple decreases during COVID.

Walters has used a blueprint to retain students at previous colleges where he’s worked.

“Every success that I’ve had at other institutions has been based on what I call a strategic enrollment management plan,” Walters said, “which is a blueprint that gives focus, but it also creates accountability in terms of how we go about the business of attracting, but also retaining the students.”

Smith says that instead she’d like to look at the overall picture of what is happening at the college to keep students around.

“What are we doing with our advising models?” Smith said. “What are we doing with our counseling models? How are we addressing issues of food and housing insecurity? How are we addressing mental health for students?” She believes it’s best to look at all these factors that make up what she calls “the holistic model.” 

Haney has been in administrative roles at Moraine since Jan. 2001, when she became the assistant dean of academic affairs. She is currently the vice president of academic affairs. She has also worked at the college as an adjunct, teaching speech communications at the school from 2002-2006. 

Some of her goals include creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment at Moraine, in part by meeting with faculty and staff to listen to their concerns. She would like to further develop transfer programs and workplace programs. She aims to increase enrollment at Moraine as well.

The next candidate will need to be able to help Moraine progress in multiple areas.

“There are lots of times people come thinking that they are here to shake a place up because they need something big and different,” retiring President Sylvia Jenkins said. “Moraine doesn’t need a shake up. What Moraine needs is someone with a vision that can help Moraine continue to move forward.”