“A small-town mayor”: students give their thoughts on their ideal UNF president

Carter Mudgett, Editor in Chief

Making good on their promise to hear student opinions prior to the search for the University of North Florida’s (UNF) next president, search committee Chair Paul McElroy— alongside other assisting members— met with students this morning for an open forum to hear their input. Released at the beginning of Oct., the search committee told the UNF community that “your input is valuable to this search process,” and are now moving to meet with students, faculty, and staff in person as well. 

Filling the Student Union North Star Board room, staff had to find more chairs to accommodate the ever arriving students. Coming from all walks of life, jobs, and commitments, students joined the meeting, eager to give their opinions. Kicking off the conversation, the question of “If you could wave a wand and change one thing [at UNF] what would it be?” was raised. 

One student mentioned that they wanted a president who was dedicated to UNF and its community, not secluded up on the third floor of their office. A recurring complaint amongst students was how the previous president, David Szymanski, seemingly only emerged from his office to stage photo-ops with students. A major point that was made was how students wanted someone who genuinely cared about them and the school. 

Student Body President Selma Beserivic highlighted how she wanted a president who understood that it was “a position to be fulfilled, not be a stepping stone.” Someone who, unlike Szymanski with MedNexus, would see UNF as something to achieve. 

Veterans issues and importance were also raised, alongside international students’ incorporation into the UNF community. Another student mentioned how it took them seven months to finish the application process with a green card, too long a time in their opinion. 

“Small town mayor” was brought up a few times as a sort of figurehead that the next president should aspire to be like. Defining characteristics such as being genuine, authentic, empathetic, and impressionable were thrown out throughout the meeting. 

Running over the allocated time, Chair Paul McElroy returned to the conversation as he told students what the search committee members were looking for. 

“This [job] is a commitment to a lifestyle,” McElroy said. He further elaborated how this job would require more than just a “6 a.m. to 6 p.m.” commitment, and that the committee would be committed to finding a candidate who understands that expectation. 

The next Presidential Search Committee meeting is set to happen on Nov. 18. View the full schedule of the search here


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