On Tuesday, Feb. 13, the second presidential candidate for Millersville visited. Dr. Mary Gowan visited the campus over a three day period, and held an “open forum” where she answered questions from students and faculty.
As for all the presidential candidates, Gowan participated in a meet and greet event where she answered questions and addressed concerns from the audience. Each candidate that visits is asked five preselected questions for the first half of the event, and then participates in an open Q&A for the second half.
Ann Womble, who is the trustee of the Presidential Search Committee (PSC), was the moderator of the event. She controlled the floor and asked the questions to Mary Gowan.
In her cover letter to Millersville, Dr. Gowan says she started serving as the undergraduate dean at George Washington University, and then the dean of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business at Elon University. Missing being able to use her leadership skills, Gowan accepted the position of dean of the College of Business at James Madison University (JMU), where she has served for the past 4 and a half years.
“I realized I missed using my leadership skills and helping to shape a college, hence my decision to accept the position,” she wrote in her cover letter. In this position, she notes that rather than just being part of the faculty, she had more opportunity to change the school for the better in a leadership role.
When she took the position, JMU was preparing for reaccreditation. She took this time to evaluate the status of the school and focus on getting everything in order. She set up meetings with all the faculty and staff to engage in “strategic planning, curriculum review, [and] designing the new building.” She also took this time to help increase transparency for fund allocations and and how positions were assigned.
Why do you want to be president of Millersville?
Gowan answered this question by saying that she has been very fortunate in her career to have worked at such great schools, and that Millersville will be no exception for her. She said that she wants to bring more recognition to Millersville, especially in financial aspects. She mentioned that she just secured a large donation at JMU, and hopes to achieve similar things at Millersville.
What are Millersville’s strengths and what are its weaknesses?
One of the main strengths of Millersville, said Gowan, is that the programs and faculty are very student-centered. She said that Millersville’s study abroad program is very strong and helpful to students. Another strength she mentioned was MU’s focus on strong organization in general.
Some challenges she saw for Millersville are some that all schools will be facing soon: how do we incorporate exponentially changing technology in the classroom? She said that schools need to be focusing on this change and activity looking at how to use the benefits that technologies like artificial intelligence can offer to students, as well as examining the risks. Gowan said colleges need to be thinking about these implications of computer technology, and that most are not.
How will you approach building your senior leadership team?
When Womble asked this question, Dr. Gowan laughed and said “well… very carefully,” which drew laugher from the crowd. She then said that she wants to keep the institution’s knowledge from the existing leadership so that she knows how everything works and how things are done at Millersville. Gowan said that she wants her leadership team to have a very clear understanding and agreement about the vision for the university.
Gowan said that she doesn’t want to give positions in her team to those looking for just career advancements, but that each member must care about the university’s greater good.
How will you work on increasing diversity and inclusivity on campus?
“I spend a lot of time thinking about that,” she said at first pondering the question. Gowan said that she has experienced discrimination for being a woman, noting that she was denied a job because of it.
She said that people need to be held accountable for racial and gender discrimination, and that diversity is more than just checking boxes for diversity requirements. If it becomes just about checking boxes, Gowan said that a new model of increasing diversity has to be created.
What is your philosophy and approach to freedom and education and expression on campus?
Regarding educational freedom, Gowan said that faculty need to understand their place in the community. She says that faculty need to follow the guidelines of the university, but that professors still have freedom to discuss topics that they want to bring up. She says that professors can bring up subjects in the classroom, but that they should take extra care when dealing with ones not in their discipline. She also noted that professors are allowed to express their own opinions, but they must be clear that they do not speak for the university.
In regards to freedom of expression on campus, Gowan said that clear lines have to be drawn. She referenced the blackface incident at Millersville last year, saying that that went too far and was not okay. But, she said, dissenting voices should be allowed on campus. “I would want people to feel like dissenting voices are welcome on this campus. I would want people to understand that dissenting voices are best heard when you have civil discourse.”
The second half of the event was an open Q&A where Dr. Gowan was asked around ten additional questions. These questions revolved around sustainability, confidence in higher education, how to make Millersville stand out, and others. Students and faculty who could not attend the forum are encouraged to watch the full interview with Dr. Mary Gowen at http://www.millersville.edu/presidential-search/candidate-profiles.php