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CSU presidential candidate stresses transparency during public forum

Chris Markwood, the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi provost and vice president for academic affairs the past four years, answered the obvious question before anyone could ask it during Monday's forum for the Columbus State University presidential candidate.

Why didn't he pursue the permanent job when he was interim chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior from August 2010 to March 2011?

Part of the reason was professional, he explained to the audience of about 80 in the Center for Commerce and Technology auditorium on CSU's main campus, and part of the reason was personal. He wanted more time to develop in academia and he wanted more time to help his daughter develop at home.

He told his boss, "The average age of a president or chancellor in the United States is 65. I'm 45. I've got 20 years to figure out whether I want the job."

After he paused amid the crowd's laughter, he continued, "But I have one chance to be the best dad of a 2-year-old."

Now, his daughter is in first grade, and Markwood is 49, but he already feels ready to pursue this presidency, he said, because CSU matches the three criteria he and his wife, Bridget, agreed upon as their definition for a quality opportunity. He expressed it with three key alliterative words: purpose, partnership and passion:

Purpose means being committed to student support, "not just on paper," he said. "In other words, we wanted a campus where they understood who they were and where they were going and how they were going to get there, or at least they were trying."

Partnership means a campus that "understood they can't do it alone, that had involvement with the community," Markwood said. And that relationship isn't only financial, but "there is a mutual relationship that benefits each other," he said, such as internships for students.

Passion means a campus that "had an excitement to it," he said, "a campus that went beyond simply school spirit, that to its core had a culture of trust that led to transparency or the desire for transparency and the opportunities to truly work together."

Transparency was a key word in one of the questions Markwood was asked during the forum: What does transparency mean in the context of a university and how did he put that belief into action?

"Transparency is not an event," he said. "It's not a single event. It's not a single meeting. It's not a single memo. It is a way of life. It's a culture, a belief system. It's a value that has to be lived out daily in actions."

Transparency, he said, respects the goal of shared governance.

"It respects the role of the faculty, the staff and the students," he said, "and really is embedded in trust. If we really trust each other and respect the roles we all play, then over time, if that trust really does exist, the question about motive behind decisions melts away.

"We may disagree about a proposal or an outcome or a program or a decision, but the question about motive disappears, and we have an honest disagreement, a legitimate disagreement, a discussion. If you can't have a healthy discussion with differing opinions on a university campus, where can you? We should be modeling it."

For example, as interim chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, he said, he sent the campus community a weekly update about the institution, "who we were and what we were doing." Markwood worked against the "silos" in the system that divided faculty and staff.

"We made a real effort to reach out and build those relationships," he said. "I think we were rather successful. When it came time to make some very difficult decisions on budget cuts, we had the ability to have those conversations."

It was the first of two open forums for the public to meet, hear and question Markwood. About two dozen folks attended the subsequent forum, held on CSU's downtown campus in the Riverside Theatre Complex.

Markwood is the third of the five remaining candidates to visit. The first was Randy Hanna, who was chancellor of the Florida College System, formerly known as the Florida Community College System, from 2011 through Dec. 31, when he resigned to pursue a university presidency while also returning to the Tallahassee, Fla., law firm Bryant Miller Olive. The second was Aldemaro Romero Jr., the former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Southern Illinois University, where he now is a biology professor after losing his five-year deanship Dec. 31 in a reorganization.

Here is the visitation schedule for the other candidates:

March 10-12: Carl Stockton, provost and senior vice-president for academic affairs, University of Houston-Clear Lake, Texas.

March 15-17: Jose-Marie Griffiths, vice president for academic affairs, Bryant University, Smithfield, R.I.

Each visit includes two forums open to the public: at 2 p.m. in the CSU Center for Commerce and Technology on main campus; at 3:30 p.m. in the Riverside Theatre Complex on the RiverPark Campus. The rest of the forum dates are March 11 and 16.

Out of 60 applicants, the 17-member search and screening committee chose 11 to interview. Ten were interviewed last month in Atlanta, and five made the cut.

After the candidates visit CSU, the committee will recommend 3-5, without ranking them, to the University System Board of Regents. The Special Regents' Search Committee will recommend an unspecified number of finalists to chancellor Hank Huckaby, who will recommend his top choice to the full board.

Tim Mescon, who announced his departure six months ago, was CSU president for six years when he retired Dec. 31 to move to Amsterdam and become senior vice president and chief officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International.

Mescon is the fourth president in the 57-year history of CSU, which began as Columbus College. Thomas Whitley served from 1958-79, Francis Brooke from 1980-87 and Frank Brown from 1988-2008.

Tom Hackett, the CSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, has been serving as interim president.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.

ONLINE ONLY

Click on this story at www.ledger-enquirer.com for a video interview with Chris Markwood and previous stories about the search, plus a link to the search committee's website, where the resumes and visitation schedules of the five candidates are posted. That's also where the public can take a survey to express to the committee their opinions about the candidates.

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