Six candidates vying for SUNY Potsdam presidency
Six candidates are looking to be the next president at SUNY Potsdam. In the top row, from the left, are Dr. Shelitha Williams, Dr. Suzanne Smith and Dr. Irene Rios. In the bottom row are Dr. Patrick Jones, Dr. Edward Mills and Dr. Jody Fournier.
BY ADAM ATKINSON
North Country This Week
POTSDAM — SUNY Potsdam’s search committee for a new president is eyeing six candidates for the top post.
The college is currently lead by officer-in-charge Dr. Phillip Neisser who was appointed after the death of Dr. John L. Graham in late 2021. Graham, who was posthumously appointed as college president, was sent to lead the campus by the SUNY Board of Trustees following the departure of former President Dr. Kristin G. Esterberg.Dr. Jody S. Fournier, Dr. Ed Mills, Dr. Patrick M. Jones, Dr. Suzanne Smith, Dr. Shelitha Williams and Dr. Irene Rios are each under consideration for the college’s helm. Each of the candidates have visited the school for two days of tours and open forums with faculty, staff and students, with the most recent being Dr. Jody S. Fournier who visited Nov. 21 and 22.
A complete rundown of search process can be read on the colleges web page at https://www.potsdam.edu/about/leadership/office-president/presidential-s... .
“Each candidate has the opportunity to meet with stakeholders from across campus and in the community,” said Alexandra Jacobs Wilke, SUNY Potsdam Director of Public Relations. “We are holding open forums for each candidate, including forums for faculty/staff, for students, and final community presentations. The final presentations are open to the public and stream live online. We seek feedback on each candidate through surveys.”
The candidates are vetted by a search committee formed by the College Council. The committee includes four members of the council, six faculty, one professional staff member, one student, one alumna/alumnus, one Foundation Board member, and one Academic dean. Also serving on the committee is an incumbent or retired SUNY president from another campus or a member of the Chancellor’s senior staff designated by the Chancellor. In addition, a Chancellor’s Liaison and a Campus Liaison serve as non-voting members, the college website said.
The search is a multi-level process which involves assistance from RPA Inc., a nationally recognized comprehensive executive search and consulting firm. To read more on process visit https://bit.ly/3UWtFKG .
The candidates (from their bio information supplied by the college)
Dr. Jody S. Fournier
Dr. Jody S. Fournier, a developmental psychologist and professor of psychology with over 24-years of higher education experience, serves as provost and vice president of learning at Capital University, where his responsibilities encompass the roles of chief academic officer, chief student affairs officer, and chief enrollment officer.
A recipient of the Praesentia (excellence in teaching) and Cotterman (excellence in service to students) advising awards, Dr. Fournier earned his bachelor of arts in psychology, master of science in child development, and Ph.D. in developmental psychology from The Ohio State University. He and his wife, Debbie, have three children and enjoy attending campus events. Dr. Fournier runs daily, often through campus, always accompanied by his two German Shorthaired Pointers.
Dr. Ed Mills
A first-generation college graduate, Dr. Mills began working in public higher education as a financial aid coordinator 37 years ago. He devoted his career to advancing student success by developing enrollment management and student services innovations, advancing equity, and fostering university partnerships. Dr. Mills earned a bachelor of science from Kansas State University, a master’s in counselor education from Pennsylvania State University and his Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership/Human Resource Studies from Colorado State University.
At Sacramento State, Dr. Mills serves as the Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Enrollment Officer.
He actively participates in student and community events and is very visible on campus. Locally, Dr. Mills serves on multiple boards raising money to support student access, scholarships, and safety. He regularly volunteers to help local organizations supporting communities in need.
Dr. Patrick M. Jones
Dr. Patrick M. Jones is professor of music and chancellor of Penn State Schuylkill. During his tenure he has overseen the addition of degree programs in areas of great demand such as nursing, cybersecurity, and information technology, and upgrades to the campus’ physical plant—including new laboratories for chemistry, nursing, and radiological sciences, a learning center, and technology and equipment upgrades to classrooms and recreation facilities.
In addition to his academic career, Dr. Jones served for thirty years in uniform, retiring from the Air National Guard at the rank of Colonel. His assignments included serving as a musician, unit commander, and Chief of Air National Guard Bands.
Dr. Jones holds the Bachelor of Science degree in music education from West Chester University, a Diploma of Fine Arts in conducting and wind literature from the University of Calgary, the Master of Arts degree in conducting from George Mason University, and the Doctor of Philosophy degree in music education from Penn State University. He is also a graduate of the Armed Forces School of Music, Air National Guard Academy of Military Science, Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and Air War College.
Dr. Suzanne Smith
Dr. Suzanne Smith has served as the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs at Georgia Southwestern State University since July 1, 2018. In this position she is responsible for the academic programming and planning for the university, and the allocation of resources to meet programmatic priorities. During her time at GSW she has led an academic planning process which resulted in the establishment of several new degree programs designed to meet student and regional workforce needs. She helped raise over two million dollars for one of those programs by working with community partners and seeking external grants.
Prior to GSW, Suzanne served Washington State University Vancouver from 1997-2018, where she most recently served as the Director of Academic Planning and Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. During her time at Washington State she transitioned from faculty to administration by serving ten years as an Academic Director.
Dr. Shelitha Williams
Dr. Shelitha Williams serves as the Vice President of Student and Enrollment Services and the Chief Diversity Officer at Genesee Community College, with over 20 years of professional experience in higher education. As the Vice President/Chief Diversity Officer she provides vision and leadership for the recruitment, enrollment, retention, and inclusive engagement efforts for the institution. As a first-generation college student, Dr. Williams started her education journey at SUNY Potsdam where she was actively engaged in the college community as a resident assistant, student worker, club leader with noteworthy academic achievement.
Dr. Williams received her doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Rochester, Master of Social Work with a counseling concentration from SUNY Stony Brook University and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Africana Studies from SUNY Potsdam.
Dr. Irene Rios
Dr. Irene Rios currently serves as the Ammerman Campus CEO/Executive Dean for SUNY Suffolk. She presides over the campus as the chief academic and operating officer. She leads campus faculty and staff in the delivery of instruction, student activities, and student services; in the development of curricula; in addressing health and safety matters; and is responsible for budget development, fiscal management, and physical plant operations of the campus. She has served in this capacity for all three campuses of SUNY Suffolk.
She has taught across all levels in higher education, and in the doctoral education program for the University of Hartford she serves as an adjunct professor primarily on dissertation committees for students researching academic advising topics. Dr. Rios holds a doctoral degree from the University of Hartford in Connecticut, and a master’s and bachelor’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.