Parwinder Grewal was selected as the first president of Vermont State University, Chancellor Sophie Zdatny announced via email on Monday afternoon. Grewal will oversee all four campuses under the new college entity.
“I want to thank the hundreds of students, faculty and staff who participated in the candidate town halls and campus events when the presidential candidate finalists visited our campuses in March,” Zdatny wrote in the email.
The selection of Grewal comes just under 20 days after his visit to Castleton on March 29, when he became the third of four finalists to visit the campuses that will be united for the Fall of 2023. Gregory Summers from University of Wisconsin Steven’s Point, Jacqueline Edmonson from Penn State Greater Allegheny and Tod Laursen from SUNY Polytechnic were the other three finalists.
Grewal, who grew up in a small village in India, made expanded access to a variety of educational options a focal point of his visit.
“There are lots of students who want some sort of hybrid model, an opportunity to learn wherever they are,” he said. “Every discipline has a role to play … We need to create every opportunity.”
He also discussed a plan to further enhance diversity and the overall educational experience by hiring faculty members with various backgrounds and ethnicities and the importance of graduate programs as they relate to Vermont jobs and the economy.
“Once [students] go out of state, we lose them,” said Grewal, adding that graduate programs like master’s degrees are a large contribution to the state itself, not just the students or colleges.
Summers was the leadoff candidate, beginning the visits on March 21, followed by Edmonson, Grewal and Laursen over the next 19 days. Candidates met with faculty, staff and students in the library for half an hour each day, answering questions about their leadership styles and experience. Each candidate also spent time on hour-long Zoom town halls, subjected to more questions before finally returning before the board for final interviews, which along with feedback provided by students, staff and faculty from all the campuses, led the board to choose Grewal, according to the details of the selection process on the VSC website.
“I am actually very excited for Dr. Grewal to be a part of the transformation process at Vermont State University,” said Perry Ragouzis, vice president of Community Relations. “I was really excited to hear how willing he was to work one on one with faculty, staff and students to make the process as inclusive as possible. I like him a lot.”
Student Government Association Secretary Mara Bailey was also excited for the school’s future under Grewal.
“I’m happy to see some POC representation on campus especially in such a prominent position such as president,” she said. “When he was being interviewed, he was one of the few candidates who showed extreme interest in being physically present at the campus during commencement and he made a promise to do his best to be there at individual campus events. I think that shows his dedication to the position and that’s definitely an important quality to have.”
SGA President Ryan Boeke was glad to see some harmony achieved between the board and the student body.
“I was extremely happy. It feels like we’re putting the right foot forward. When the student leaders had a session to interview the different candidates, he was among the top for us. It was nice to see that the board agrees with us,” he said. “It feels like our campus and the board is finally agreeing on something.”
The search for a president to lead the new college entity began in November, 2021 when a 15-member search committee formed with board members, community partners and members of Vermont State Colleges faculty and staff and began to assemble a bracket of candidates and whittle it down to the aforementioned final four.
Interim President of Castleton Thomas Mauhs-Pugh sent out a subsequent email, welcoming Grewal to the university.
“He’ll be a great addition to the Vermont State Colleges team and one who understands and appreciates Castleton’s strengths,” he wrote in the email.
Grewal will assume the office of president on July 1, right in conjunction with the original timeline laid out on the VSC website.