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Committee chooses Scolforo to replace Wolk

Board of Trustees has final say

By Brigitta Gough
On September 21, 2017

A search committee to replace retiring Castleton University President Dave Wolk has chosen Karen Scolforo, former president of Central Penn College.  Photo by Seldon Hill

The Presidential Search Committee has unanimously recommended Karen Scolforo to the Vermont State Colleges System Board of Trustees to be the next president of Castleton University.

The Board of Trustees is scheduled to conduct a final interview with Scolforo during the last week of September and will make its final decision shortly after according to the e-mail sent out to the Castleton Community.

Over the past two weeks, the final three candidates, John LaBrie, Steven Sicinolfi and Karen Scolforo visited campus to meet with the committee and campus community.

Each of the candidates outlined plans for the university in separate afternoon meetings.

Student presence at the meetings was sparse, with no more than a few at each meaning the audience was mostly faculty.

Each candidate at the respective colloquiums was responsible for informing the community of their vision for the university if selected to be the next president of Castleton University.

Scolforo spoke about her plans for the university as being very collaborative. She said she wants to hear suggestions from students and faculty before making any big changes.

Talking about her approach when she became president at Central Penn College, she said that this was her first course of action.

Scolforo said one of the first things she said when she started at Central Penn College is “You will be heard.”

She said she wants Castleton University to be the preferred choice for high school graduates and wants to improve student support and retention programs to increase enrollment numbers and retention rates.

She also wants to create more support for faculty to be innovative in their teaching methods and help them develop professionally through workshops. To achieve this, she said she wants to hear what the Castleton community thinks we can do better and how we can improve it.

“Faculty is the student learning experience,” Scolforo said.

Scolforo said she believes it is important to work on our carbon footprint as well. She admitted in her colloquium that she did not have a lot of knowledge about sustainability and how she plans to change our carbon footprint but wants to hear from students and faculty on their thoughts of how we can improve sustainable practices.

Philosophy Professor Brendan Lalor, in a follow-up interview, said this is what made Scolforo his favorite candidate. He said he believed she understood the responsibility we have as a campus to the environment. He said that he thinks that our carbon footprint is usually just an item on a checklist that many do not really consider to be important.

“We need to wake up and pay attention to this and she understands where the wind blows,” Lalor said, referencing a Bob Dylan’s song, Blowin in the Wind.

Anne Slonaker, a professor in the Education Department, said she believes that Scolforo is a great choice for president because she has previous experience as a president of Central Penn College and will further President Dave Wolk’s work. And she liked her persona.

“She encompassed such great energy,” Slonaker said.

In his community colloquium, LaBrie said he would work to expand the number of students, improve undergraduate and graduate programs by changing our curriculum to meet the demands in each department, and expand the international student population.

Sicinolfi said that he envisioned implementing more experiential learning through internships, practicums and clinical programs. He also talked about how he would like to create more relevant graduate programs.

In a separate interview, geography professor Scott Roper said that he thought the events the search committee put together were well organized and informative.

“If we could combine all three of them we might have the perfect candidate,”

Roper said when asked which candidate he preferred.

Search committee member and Faculty Assembly Chairman Andre Fleche said he thought having the candidates on campus was a success. He said they all had something different they could bring to our campus.

“I think it went very well. The campus community really appreciated the time that they were able to spend with the candidates and I think we got to know them a lot better,” Fleche said.

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