Ohio University community, along with members of the Athens community, will get a chance to meet the three finalists for the presidential role in the coming weeks, with the first candidate forum set for Wednesday.
The finalists have strong academic backgrounds and have served in leadership positions at public research universities, according the Presidential Search Committee. Biographical sketches of each candidate are published below.
“Last September, our Board of Trustees brought together a group of diverse individuals from across the University community to guide the search for Ohio University’s 23rd president and help chart a course for Ohio University that will move us forever forward,” Presidential Search Committee and Board of Trustees Chair Peggy Viehweger said in a message to Ohio’s campus community. “The search has been intense, and every member of the committee has been fully engaged. I believe we have incorporated the information collected from the community and lived up to finding candidates who match our criteria.”
The new president’s term is expected to begin after President Hugh Sherman’s two-year term, which is set to conclude June 30. The target timeline for the Board of Trustees to name a new president is by early April. The board next meets on April 6.
Ohio students, faculty, staff and alumni, along with members of the Athens and regional campus communities, are invited to participate in presidential candidate finalist open forums that are scheduled to take place on March 1, 7 and 8.
Each finalist will visit the Athens Campus to engage in a wide range of settings with students, faculty, staff, alumni, University leadership and others across the OU community.
Presidential candidate finalists include:
• Susana Rivera-Mills, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at Ball State University, will visit between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, at the Baker University Center Theater. Online surveys to be filled out after the forum are available at surveymonkey.com/r/OhioU-Pres-Rivera-Mills .
• Avinandan “Avi” Mukherjee, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Marshall University, will visit between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. March 7 at the Walter Hall Rotunda. Online surveys to be filled out after the forum are available at surveymonkey.com/r/OhioU-Pres-Mukherjee .
• Lori Stewart Gonzalez, executive vice president and provost at the University of Louisville, will visit between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. March 8 at the Baker University Ballroom A. Online surveys to be filled out after the forum are available at surveymonkey.com/r/OhioU-Pres-Gonzalez .
The university community will also have the opportunity to anonymously share feedback via an online survey at the conclusion of each forum. Surveys close at 11 p.m. March 9.
A member of OU’s Faculty Senate will moderate each forum, and a livestream of every session will be available for those with an OU ID.
Additional open forum details are available on OU’s Presidential Search website, ohio.edu/president/presidential-search.
About the candidates
Rivera-Mills became provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Ball State University in July 2018, according to Ball State University’s website. Located in Muncie, Indiana, Ball State is a public research university with more than 21,000 undergraduate students and around 5,800 graduate students.
As provost, Rivera-Mills oversees all aspects of the university’s academic mission, including supporting leadership for all academic units. She aids in the development and implementation of the strategic plan and in academic innovation.
In her role as executive vice president, Rivera-Mills works collaboratively with other vice presidents on enrollment management, leveraging technology and data analytics to support decision-making, the implementation of the university’s lifetime-learning initiative, and advancing efforts related to Inclusive Excellence.
As a first-generation college student, Rivera-Mills understands the power of education. Rivera-Mills earned her bachelor’s in Spanish in 1992 and a master’s in Spanish linguistics in 1994 from the University of Iowa. She earned a doctorate in romance languages in 1998 from the University of New Mexico.
“Education has opened doors for me that would have never been possible. As a university leader I believe it is important to provide access to education to diverse populations, and educate all students to become civically engaged, global leaders,” Rivera-Mills said on her Linkedin page. “This leadership must be demonstrated by being a good listener, taking feedback seriously, and doing my best to respond in a way that improves lives and environments.”
As a faculty member at Northern Arizona University and Oregon State University, Rivera-Mills’ research focused on Latino communities, Spanish language and culture, issues in sociolinguistics, as well as online teaching and learning.
Rivera-Mills brought extensive administrative experience to Ball State having served as department chair of Modern Languages, executive associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts, dean of Undergraduate Studies, and vice provost of Academic Programs and Learning Innovation at Oregon State University. Rivera-Mills also served as the interim director and founder for the Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement, and the director for Student Success and Diversity Advancement.
Mukherjee is the provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Marshall University. Located in Huntington, West Virginia, Marshall University is a public research university with more than 8,000 undergraduate students and around 2,500 postgraduate students.
Mukherjee is responsible for all Academic Affairs (including nine colleges and two schools), Student Affairs, Research and Enrollment Management, with 564 full-time faculty and 370 staff/administrators, according to Marshall University’s website. Two vice presidents (VP research, VP for student and intercultural affairs), the associate provost, the assistant provost, three associate vice presidents, nine academic deans, the dean of admissions and enrollment services, and the new Division of Aviation all report directly to the provost. The provost is responsible for $97.5 million in academic expenditures and slightly over $50 million in research expenditures, according to Marshall’s website.
As dean of the AACSB-accredited Lewis College of Business at Marshall University from 2017 to 2021, Mukherjee has managed the entire College of Business as the chief academic, financial, personnel and administrative officer, responsible for faculty, students, curriculum, budgets and external engagement.
Since starting at Marshall University in July 2017, Mukherjee led a reimagination of the Lewis College of Business in active collaboration with numerous external and internal stakeholders, according to Marshall University’s website. Some of Mukherjee major accomplishments as dean include: securing the largest gift in college history of $25 million from Brad and Alys Smith; planning for and overseeing progress on the new College of Business building; getting the Lewis College of Business nationally ranked in several media outlets; launching the Doctor of Business Administration program; launching the first fully online program from the Lewis College of Business; launching the first STEM program from the College; creating the iCenter – Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; securing successful Maintenance of Accreditation in Business and Accounting by AACSB International in 2018; promoting numerous experiential learning initiatives including the Business and Economics Research Symposium; garnering more than $750,000 in research and community grants; launching the new Dean’s Distinguished Speaker Series with CEO-level speakers on campus; initiating several new international partnerships; and managing record enrollment growth and record fund-raising.
Before joining Marshall, Mukherjee served as the dean of the AACSB-accredited College of Business at Clayton State University in metro Atlanta, according to Marshall University. Before his deanship, Mukherjee was the chair of the Marketing Department in the School of Business for six years at Montclair State University, New Jersey’s second largest university.
Mukherjee has been a full-time faculty member in the United States (Marshall, Clayton State, Montclair State, Penn State), United Kingdom (Bradford), Singapore (NTU) and India (IIM). He has been a visiting faculty at Rutgers Business School, NJIT, INSEAD, Copenhagen Business School, ESC Toulouse, and Kathmandu University, among others.
Mukherjee earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Jadavpur University in India and a doctorate from the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad. He was a visiting scholar at the École Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales, a major French business and management school. Mukherjee is a graduate of the Management and Leadership in Education (MLE) Program from Harvard University, and the Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI) Institute from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).
Mukherjee is an active member of the Rotary Club of Huntington and other community-based organizations and has been invited as a speaker in numerous forums and events.
As executive vice president and university provost at the University of Louisville, Gonzalez manages both the day-to-day and long-term academic operation of the public research university with more than 21,000 undergraduate students and around 5,700 postgraduate students that is located in Louisville, Kentucky, according to the university’s website.
The executive vice president and university provost not only is responsible for setting the university’s course, through collaboration with faculty, staff and students, but also is charged with assuring that it stays on course. The executive vice president and university provost is an advisor to the university president and acts as president during presidential absences.
Gonzalez received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979 from the University of Kentucky in speech-pathology and audiology. She received a Master of Arts degree in communication disorders in 1981 from Eastern Kentucky University and a Ph.D. in communication disorders in 1989 from the University of Florida.
Gonzalez began her academic career at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1988. In 1991, Gonzalez, executive vice president and provost at the University of Louisville returned to the University of Kentucky as an assistant professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program. She spent 20 years at the university where she served on the faculty, moving from assistant to professor and also served as associate dean of Academic Affairs. In 2005, she was appointed UK’s third dean of the College of Health Sciences serving in that capacity for seven years.
Gonzalez served as provost and executive vice chancellor for three years beginning in 2011 at Appalachian State University and as special adviser to the senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina General Administration, the North Carolina public higher education authority during the 2015 academic year.
From 2015 until the spring of 2021, she served as the vice chancellor for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Tennessee. Gonzalez moved into the provost role at the University of Louisville in April 2021.
In an article published by the University of Louisville News shortly after Gonzalez started work as executive vice president and university provost in April of 2021, she talked about what motivates her to work in higher education.
“I’m a speech-language pathologist by education and early on in my career I was invited to do a series of continuing education activities for other speech pathologists and I realized I loved teaching,” she said. “But the real reason, I think, is my father. He was a graduate of Berea College, he was the first in our family to go to college and education was always talked about in my house. He encouraged people in our little town to get a degree and at his funeral, I remember somebody saying, ‘I’m a nurse because your dad told me I could be.’ I was just inculcated with the notion that education is a transformative experience. You can transform a person, a family, a community and really our world. That’s my ‘why.’”
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