Chances are the next president of Illinois Central College won’t come from a college with striking similarities to ICC, though it’s safe to say the next president will come from a community college.
The four finalists to replace John Erwin, who retired last year, completed on-campus interviews this week. Now the real work begins for ICC trustees charged with selecting the fifth president in the college’s 50-year history.
They expect to name their choice in April, according to Susan Portscheller, chairwoman of the board of trustees.
Trustees will chose from a slate representing different geographical regions, mainly rural and suburban areas, of four different states. Three of the four currently are community college presidents. Only one has more than five years experience as a college president. Three of the four are women.
Students, faculty, staff, members of ICC’s education foundation and community members got a chance to meet and question the finalists about their skills, experience and vision in separate forums.
The candidates are:
• Jackie Elliott, who is president of North Arkansas College in Harrison, Ark., a rural area with significant poverty. The college had significant problems when she took the helm in 2011. The Chronicle of Higher Education named the school to its list of “Great Colleges to Work For” in 2013. She has also worked as vice president for community affairs at a community college in Missouri. She has 27 years experience in higher education. ICC’s focus on quality improvement attracted her to the school. Elliott’s resignation from Northark, as it’s known, is effective June 30.
• Sheila Quirk-Bailey is chief of staff and a vice president of planning at William Rainey Harper College, the largest employer in Palatine. She has been in her current role since 2010 and worked at the college since 1992. The school is about one-third larger than ICC with a high enrollment of suburban students. A graduate of Bradley University, she also has worked at the corporate university of Andersen Consulting. In Palatine, she leads an innovative consortium responsible for increasing the number of students entering Harper prepared for college-level math courses.
• Tim Wynes has been a community college president 14 years. He is currently president of both Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College, both in the suburbs of St. Paul, Minn. (Inver Hills faculty recently passed a no-confidence vote in his leadership but other key community leaders support him). He was also president of Iowa Valley Community College eight years, where he was known for effectively lobbying lawmakers for more funding. A lawyer, he has worked as a prosecutor, public defender and served as legal counsel for Missouri’s Department of Social Services.
• Karin Hilgersom has been president of SUNY Sullivan Community College in upstate New York, since 2013. The college is located in one of the poorest counties in the state. In her 30-year community college career, she has also worked vice president of instruction at Central Oregon Community College and Walla Walla Community College in Washington state. She has been a finalist for two other college presidencies since 2015. ICC’s comprehensive mix of programs and healthy finances impressed her. Sullivan has increased county funding and retention rates during her tenure, while reducing energy costs and its carbon footprint.
“They’re interviewing us as much as we’re interviewing them,” Portscheller said of the process.
Several key positions remain open at ICC, including the provost and foundation direction, until a president is named.