EDITORIAL: McNeese needs leader with vision

Publication:  American Press       Date:  April 22, 2010        Page Number: A8



McNeese needs leader with vision


    Tomorrow’s decision by the University of Louis–iana System Board of Supervisors on who will become the next president of McNeese State University will have a long-range impact not only on the school but on all of Southwest Louisiana.

    Following a three-month process, the search committee charged with finding a replacement for Dr. Robert Hebert whittled the candidates down to three: Dr. Jeanne Daboval, provost and vice president for academic affairs at McNeese; Dr. Philip Williams, president of the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Ala., and Dr. Linda Rinker, provost and vice present for academic affairs at Western Connecticut State University.

    Rinker withdrew her candidacy earlier this week, leaving Daboval and Williams to be interviewed by the board beginning at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Baton Rouge. Following the interview, the board is expected to select the sixth president of McNeese.

    More than anything, McNeese needs a leader with vision. The university does an exemplary job of producing teachers, nurses, engineers, business majors and criminal justice majors. What it lacks is a niche — something that makes it unique and separates it from all its sister institutions and other universities in the region.

    The next president must be someone who can envision the coming wave in the fields of education and the economy, articulate it and lead McNeese in growing it here in Southwest Louisiana.

    What might that be? Maybe it’s expanding the university’s existing research on marsh grass that will help in the rebuilding of our coastal wetlands. Maybe it’s in helping the farmers of Southwest Louis–iana identify and grow crops for use in alternative energy. Maybe it’s helping the petrochemical industry on the west side of the Calcasieu River begin converting to products that are both green and in high demand.

    In the coming years, McNeese has to be more than just an institution that turns out men and women for the workforce, more than just one of Southwest Louisiana’s largest employers.

    It must become a bigger cog in Southwest Louisiana’s engine, incubating and nurturing new ideas, new processes, new technology.

    McNeese and our area don’t need the status quo.

    That’s the challenge for the UL System board: to select a president for McNeese who has a vision to lead this university to a bigger stake in Southwest Louisiana.

    Board members must rise above petty politics and selfish agendas to pick the right person.

    If the board fails to make the proper decision, McNeese and Southwest Louisiana will never realize their full potential.