Hopes for new UM leader

Shelby County is about to get a new educational leader, John W. Stewart III, the next president of the University of Montevallo.

I’m constantly being asked what I think about his selection. Rather than try to predict what he will do, I’m going to share with you my hopes for what the next president’s leadership will bring to the University of Montevallo.

In a time when state legislatures are funding a much lower percent of the cost of public higher education, and college endowments have been greatly diminished by the economic downturn, we are certainly fortunate to have recruited a leader who has a proven track record of persuading those who have the means and desire to give to do so.

However, while financial stability is critical, I hope for much more for Montevallo.

One hope is that our new leadership will be focused on promoting student learning and also the learning that is necessary at all levels of the organization to ensure an education that transforms students’ lives.

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get side-tracked by competing priorities, campus politics and the cycle of chasing superficial measures of reputation like the test scores of entering students.

Another hope that I have is that UM will be a place where we value all who labor in service of the unique educational experience we provide to our students.

Ironically, despite the diversity and social justice rhetoric espoused by most universities, there is often a subtle class warfare going on just outside of public view. It pits discipline versus discipline, faculty versus staff, and salaried versus hourly and shift workers.

While the University of Montevallo is an extraordinarily caring community, without vigilance and attention to issues of equity and shared governance, we could head down that road. Simply put, I hope that our new leader uses good judgment informed by the values of justice, collegiality and true educational excellence to help make UM an even more wonderful place in which to work and learn.

Finally, I hope the Montevallo community embraces Dr. Stewart as he takes on the challenging and important task of leading Alabama’s public liberal arts university.