DEARBORN — The selection of Henry Ford College’s next president lies in the hands of the seven board members of Dearborn’s Board of Education.
While the final process is now before the board, it began as a broad effort. Three of the board members, Michael Meade, Hussein Berry and James Thorpe, were tasked with overseeing the presidential search process.
First the board hired a company called AGB Search, based out Washington D.C., to find a qualified pool of applicants. The company found 42 applicants from the around the city, state and nation.
From there the board’s members put together a presidential advisory search committee consisting of 33 members. The committee consists of various leaders from different communities in the region, including students, faculty, staff, elected officials and board members.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor and former judge Anthony Guerriero was among the members on the committee. He said it was the first time he’d sat on a presidential advisory search committee, but he’d served on several superintendent search committees. Those parallel the presidential search steps, except regarding the specific questions asked.
“I thought the size of the committee was a good indication of the ability to get a much larger cross section of the community and the various stakeholders involved,” Guerriero told The AANews. “You get 33 different perspectives. I think the process was extremely fair. Everyone was really committed to putting forth the best candidates that would serve Henry Ford College into the future.”
Other advisory search committee members included Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Mariam Bazzi; Faize El-Khali, senior key account manager at Bosch North America, and The AANews Publisher Osama Siblani.
The committee members were given access to all 42 of the applicants résumés and letters of reference and were instructed to research them before deliberating, on January 31, about which candidates should be interviewed.
Following deliberation, the search committee narrowed down the field to eight candidates who were interviewed on February 17 and 18.
The interviews were conducted in a public form and held at the Dearborn Inn.
Following the interviews, the committee further narrowed the candidates to five. They will meet with various groups of students, faculty, staff, administrators and union leaders on the Henry Ford College campus between February 26 and March 16.
They’ll also be interviewed by the Dearborn Board of Education March 26-28.
These interviews will also be open to the public. After the board interviews all finalists, it will select a new president, conduct contract negotiations and make an official public announcement.
Bazzi, who said it was her first time participating in a presidential advisory search committee, found the process to be fair, transparent and to work very well.
“Although we had 33 people of different backgrounds, everyone recognized that it was about the future of Henry Ford College,” she told The AANews.
Bazzi said she thinks that the size of the committee says a lot about what type of things the community values.
El-Khali said it was his first time on a presidential advisory search committee, but he had conducted interview processes in the past. He said the committee worked together to narrow down the candidates.
“I know it’s a collaborative voice,” El-Khali told The AANews. “I believe everybody had an equal say in everything, even down to the very last round.”
Ashleigh Hullermann is the treasurer of Henry Ford College’s student council and was also a member of the search committee, a first for her. She said she learned a lot from the experience and would definitely participate again.
“It was a great reflection of the diversity in our community,” Hullermann told The AANews. “It was amazing to see everyone come together.”
Russell Kavalhuna, Michael Nealon, Thomas Watkins, Christopher Reber and Casandra Ulbrich are the five remaining candidates.
Kavalhuna has a Ph.D. in institutional leadership during crisis from Western Michigan University and a J.D. from Cooley Law School. Currently, he is the executive director of the College of Aviation at Western Michigan University and is serving as the Michigan Aeronautics commissioner. He was appointed by the governor to oversee $100 million in aviation infrastructure spending.
Nealon received a Ph.D. in musicology from Northwestern University in 1997. Since then he has taught at North Park University in Chicago, Northwestern University, DePaul University and Lansing Community college. Since August 2016, he has been the vice president of academic affairs at Henry Ford College.
Watkins was the president and CEO of the Detroit Mental Health Authority from 2013-2017. He obtained a master’s degree of social work administration from Wayne State University in 1979. He subsequently received a doctorate in educational leadership from Wayne State University.
Reber received a Ph.D. in education from the University of Pittsburg in 1987. Currently, he is the president of the Community College of Beaver County in Monaca, Pennsylvania, a position he has held since 2014. Previously, Reber was the executive dean of the Venango College of Clarion University from 2002 until 2014.
Ulbrich has been the vice president of college advancement and community relations at Macomb Community College since May 2011. Prior to that, she worked as the director of corporate and foundation relations at Wayne State University from February 2001 until May 2011. She obtained her Ph.D. in communication from Wayne State University in 2011.