UPDATE: Three of four semi-finalists for McNeese president have SW La. ties

Published 4:46 pm Thursday, April 4, 2024

The McNeese State University Presidential Search Committee has selected four semi-finalists for the job.

McNeese’s current president Daryl Burckel is set to retire on June 30. He is a two-time McNeese graduate, and took the helm as president in 2017 after serving as the head of the McNeese Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics.

Eighteen candidates applied to fill the position — Jonathan Ambrose, Andy Benoit Jr., Jose L. Cantu, Rick A. Christman, Terry Dale Cruse, Maurice D. Gipson, Ernie T. Hughes, Jonathan K. Jefferson, Vipin Menon, Juline E.Mills, Shadow Robinson, Wade Rousse, Stephen Schultheis, Eric Skipper, Al Skudzinkas, Alan C. Utter, Allen P. Vital and Kathi Vosevich.

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Rick Gallot, chair and president of the McNeese Presidential Search Committee, said the semi-finalists come from a “wide and diverse range of applications.”

“We have an exceptional pool of well-qualified candidates with a wide array of backgrounds and experiences.”

After nearly three hours of executive session, the committee unanimously voted to advance Benoit, Robinson, Rousse and Vital to the semi-finalist round.

Benoit is the vice president for the division of enrollment management at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. He is from Welsh and attended McNeese State University where he earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in speech communication and a Master of Education in instructional technology. He has also completed 55 post-graduate hours in human resources education and workforce development/adult learning and has a Doctor of Education in educational leadership from Liberty University.

He has a “commitment to belonging” and uses a “data-driven approach” in his administrative duties, according to his application letter.

Robinson, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs for the University of Arkansas, Fort Smith, has 15 years of administrative experience accompanied by 22 years of simultaneous academic experience. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science in physics and a Bachelor’s of Science in mathematics from the University of Kentucky, and a Ph.D. in theoretical nuclear physics from Rutgers University.

In his application letter, he stated he plans to harness his “expertise in resource management, enrollment strategy and advocacy to propel McNeese State University toward a future defined by sustained growth and excellence.”

Rousse has worked at McNeese since 2019. He is the executive vice president and has previously served as vice president of university advancement and as dean and professor in the College of Business. He has previous administrative and educational experience at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz.

He has a Bachelor’s of Science in business from Nicholls State University, a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of New Orleans and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In his letter, he noted “higher education is amidst a paradigm shift,” and highlighted the importance of funding restructuring and enrollment stabilization.

Vital, chief of staff for the office of the president for the Southern University System, is a Lake Charles native.  He has over 30 years of collegiate administrative experience and has previously served as the interim vice president of the office of marketing, communications and advancement at Alabama A&M University.

He holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in history from Southern University, a Master’s of Education from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and a Doctor of philosophy in urban higher education from Jackson State University.

He noted the tenets of “shared governance,” “transparent communication” and “empowering others” are expertise he can bring to the campus.

On April 16-17, on-campus constituent group meetings and search committee interviews will be conducted, followed by finalist selection.

The Board of Supervisors will interview finalists and select McNeese’s new president in the following week.

The committee is accepting public comment electronically. These can be submitted by visiting ulsystem.edu/mcneese-search/.