As part of its efforts to engage the greater community in choosing the next president, the Presidential Search Committee held two forums last week in which members of the Williamstown and North Adams communities gave input about issues they would like the next president to address and characteristics they hope he or she will embody.
The Search Committee invited specific community leaders, including those from the fields of government, education, business and social service to the first forum, held on Feb. 26. Through press releases, advertisements and articles in The Berkshire Eagle and The North Adams Transcript, all community members were invited to the second, which was held on March 4. Fourteen people attended the first forum and 18 attended the second, which mainly included alumni, retired employees, Spring Street employees and other people with various connections to the College. The string of forums held over the past two months will conclude with a staff forum tomorrow.
At the forums, community members mostly expressed praise for President Schapiro and the ways in which he has reached out beyond the Willams campus. “Especially the town leaders were full of admiration [for Schapiro] and hope that this involvement would continue with the next president,” said Laurie Heatherington, psychology professor and a member of the Search Committee. “The image of the College has changed over the last 40 years. It used to be an ivory tower but increasingly is a fabric of the community – all [forum attendees] want that to continue.”
The presidential search forums as a whole offered insight into the opinions of students, faculty, staff and community members. “The people from the Presidential Search Committee think they have been interesting and helpful,” said Jim Kolesar, director of Public Affairs and a press contact of the Search Committee.
“There was so much confluence between what community members, alumni and students have said,” Heatherington said. “Everyone praised Morty’s people skills. The next president has a lot of people who are looking for him or her to do a lot of things.”
“The College and the community are inextricably connected with each other,” said Greg Avis ’80, chair of the Search Committee. According to Avis, the fact that the College is the largest employer in the region and the fact that faculty and staff generally live in Williamstown or North Adams solidify this strong connection.
Additionally, Avis noted that the College works closely with the local school district, in ways such as running a resource center at Mount Greylock Regional High School where students and faculty from the College teach and mentor high school students. In addition to education, the College is also involved in other issues affecting the greater community, such as healthcare, economic development and sustainability, according to Kolesar.
Much of this involvement developed fairly recently, in the past five to 10 years. “The College has gotten more and more intentionally involved in the community,” Kolesar said. Avis attributed this heightened connectedness to President Schapiro’s prioritization of community outreach. “I give Morty a lot of credit,” he said. “The president of Williams, and of any college or university, must be cognizant of and willing to work with the community – Williams and the community are very much dependent on each other.”