In an effort to find Orange Coast College’s next president, members of the Coast Community College District Human Resource department are looking for input from students and faculty by holding town hall forums, open to the public.

Three town hall meetings, or Open Listening Sessions, are scheduled to invite students, faculty, staff and community members to voice their thoughts about what they want to see in the college’s next president.

“This is a huge opportunity here at OCC, and we want to get it right. We want to get it right in the job description because that’s what attracts individuals to this campus,” District Director of HR, Recruitment and Employment Services Shannon O'Connor-Escudero said.

Input can also be submitted through a confidential survey that will be available on the district’s website by next week. Notes are being compiled from the three sessions and surveys, and will be given to the search committee.

The college’s current president Dennis Harkins announced his retirement last month and said he plans on leaving OCC at the end of the fall semester. Following his decision, OCC announced its plan to form a search committee tasked in finding both an interim president for the spring 2019 semester as well as a permanent president to begin in July 2019.

Staff members attending the session on Wednesday said they hope to see a campus-oriented president who will prioritize students, and who can galvanize engagement and cohesion from faculty, staff and students.

“What I’d like to see in a college president is someone with a vision that aligns with the college’s mission, and someone who has a collaborative leadership [style],” Thuy Nguyen, executive assistant to the president said.

Dean of Student Success Steve Tamanaha referred to the college’s recent approval of on-campus student housing and said he hopes the new president will have experience from another “24-hour campus” to help with that transition to campus residency. OCC started construction for the $89 million project earlier this month and expects the complex to be complete by the fall 2020 semester.

“If students don’t have a car, there’s going to be a lot of things that residents might not be able to do on the campus that they need to. We have to be also a nighttime service to our students,” Tamanaha said.

O'Connor-Escudero, who moderated the conversation, said that the relationship between faculty and staff was brought up in the first session held on Monday.

“The feeling was a little bit like, we’re a family, but there’s sections of a family. The word ‘silos’ was brought up, so (we need) someone who can actually break through those,” O'Connor-Escudero said.

Coordinator for Guardian Scholars Gabrielle Ridley said in the future she would like to see more unity and engagement between faculty, staff and students on campus.

“We can bring every constituent group together, and that hasn’t been a priority, it seems, historically and I’d like to see that really strengthen and be prioritized in the next few years — creating spaces and creating expectations for engagement across the board,” Ridley said.

She mentioned other colleges that implement structures built to encourage engagement across all constituencies on campus, such as blocking off an hour where no classes or meetings take place to ensure there’s always time to meet.

According to O'Connor-Escudero, once the search committee is finalized, the representatives will also be listed on the OCC’s presidential search tab on the district website that will be available by next week.

The next and final listening session is set for Friday at 3 p.m. in Legacy Hall 101.

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