By Justin Fanders and Christian Rosario / Editor-In-Chief
Last year Casey Crabill, the seventh president of Raritan Valley Community College, announced her resignation to take up the position of president at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York. Ever since then, the process to appoint a suitable replacement has been a careful one.
Under Crabill, the college expanded its active enrollment totals by a sharp 40 percent, which allowed RVCC to be the only college in New Jersey to receive a federal grant from the United States Labor Department to assist in local workforce development training. RVCC also became the first community college in the nation to sign an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency to effectively reduce the schools carbon footprint, and one of the few to participate in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership program.
For the 2013-2014 academic year, the RVCC Board of Trustee appointed James B. Ventantonio, a well know lawyer within New Jersey and the 2010 Somerset County Business Partnership "Citizen of the Year", as interim president. During his tenure, the firm AGB Search of Washington, D.C. was hired to choose a permanent replacement for Crabill. The criteria RVCC gave the firm was “planning for, recruiting, selecting, and transitioning new executive leaders who will be permanent appointments.”
At the same time, the Board of Trustees formed a separate committee to go through the applications they received from the firm and interview potential candidates. The committee was comprised of 17 individuals from different departments in the college and leaders in Somerset and Hunterdon County. It was made up of administrators, faculty, trustee members, freeholders and members of the RVCC Foundation. Khushwant Pall , the Student Government president for the 2013-2014 academic year, represented the student body.
The first committee meeting took place in October, 2013. Since then, the committee screened 30 applicants, keeping the college mission in mind, which is to “develop critical thinking, foster intellectual curiosity, promote leadership, encourage social responsibility, support personal growth, and sustain engaged citizenship within a diverse population of students and community members.”
The committee looked through various details, from a person’s background to their experience and personality. Potential candidates were also expected to effectively facilitate team building, have the ability to fundraise, represent the college in good light during public appearances and have contacts with other institutions of education, business and government. “The Board of Trustees may have gotten the final vote, but the committee’s job was to narrow them down and then advise them on the choices,” Pall said.
On March 3, the Board of Trustees announced three final candidates: Dr. McDonough, provost and Vice President of Academic Services at Monroe Community College in New York State; Dr. Peter A. Purhac, CEO of Steamboat Campus of Colorado Mountain College in Colorado; and Dr. Mathew Reed, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts.
The three candidates then went through sessions with members of the school’s faculty and students. This allowed both the faculty and students to question the candidates and be an integral part of the selection. The Board of Trustees took into consideration how the students and faculty received each candidate. Close attention was paid to how the candidates interacted and responded to the questions posed to them by the audience.
After the Board of Trustees evaluated the information given to them, they found Dr. McDonough to be most favorable to the college’s mission and chose him as the next president. Dr. McDonough was born in Northwest England, hitchhiked across America in the summer of 1979, began his academic career as an English professor and has served in leadership positions at Monroe Community College since 2007. He will begin the next stage in his life when he takes office on June 2, 2014 as the eighth president of RVCC.