Arianna Otero and Alexander Luzula | PantherNOW Staff
The Presidential Search Committee held several Community Sessions last week, allowing the FIU community to engage, speak with and question Interim President Kenneth Jessell following the announcement of his nomination as the sixth university president three weeks ago.
The Board of Trustees Oct 17 vote to confirm Jessell as their choice for the vacancy is set to be finalized by the state Board of Governors next month.
Following the search committee’s announcement was the scheduling of six community sessions over the course of two days, including one session each day allowing student questions and comments from the public.
In his introductory speech during the first general session, Jessell outlined several priorities for his likely tenure as the next president, including expanding funding for research and development with a focus on combating climate change, increased student engagement and maintaining sustainable resources required to operate the university.
He specifically discussed supporting students who are recipients of the Pell Grant, as well as reaffirming his commitment to research enterprise on campus and aiding in supporting faculty and students through funding in hopes of better retention.
“You have my commitment that I will stay focused on your strategic priorities and not take on any new initiatives that are not strategic, and oftentimes dilute the scarce resources we already have,” said Jessell. “I will be asking the question, ‘What is the return on investment on this project?’ every time. This question is in my DNA.”
He also highlighted his intention to improve overall community engagement, using this year’s homecoming football game as an example.
“The experiences of our students while they are here will define how active and supportive our alumni are after they graduate,” said Jessell. “Alumni get back in many ways: they provide mentoring and internship opportunities for our current students and help improve job placement rates once our students graduate.”
Jessell’s speech was followed by a question and answer period where he fielded several questions submitted anonymously.
Questions varied from raising employee salaries, building more affinity between campuses and creating a flexible environment for staff.