GENNY BOOTS; Online Editor; firstname.lastname@example.org
President Thomas Krise ends his five years at PLU shortly after commencement May 31. Two familiar faces, Chair of Faculty Joanna Gregson and Senior Vice President of Administrative Services Allan Belton, will take his place. They will be sharing the roles and responsibilities of the university president’s office.
WHO ARE THEY?
Belton assumes the position of interim acting president June 1, after previously working as Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer. The Board of Regents chose Belton from a pool of candidates after a three-month long vetting process conducted by a task force of regents, faculty, staff and other constituents.
Belton describes himself as the “buck stops here guy” when it comes to his role as interim acting president. He will report to the Board of Regents and will oversee university finances, donor engagement, alumni relations and more.
Though he’s been appointed interim president, Belton will continue with his previous Chief Administrative duties.
“It’s really important, I think, in a time where we’re all so focused on budget that I retain the financial duties,” Belton said. “And that makes the job way too big for one person to do on their own.”
Belton said the shift in positions is not dramatically different, mainly a matter of “moving about 30 feet down the hallway on June 1.” However, Belton won’t balance these jobs alone. The Board of Regents appointed Gregson to help lighten Belton’s load by serving as Associate President, a position designed to split Belton’s duties.
“I need Joanna to effectively be second-in-command,” Belton said. “We’ve really created a role for Joanna because of the importance of what she’s going to be doing in the coming year.”
Associate President, Gregson’s main responsibilities will be working with faculty and overseeing university programs. She will also split donor relations, public engagement and the other presidential roles with Belton.
Gregson’s academic role as Chair of Faculty serves to balance Belton’s history with finance.
“What I bring to this partnership is, of course, my academic background,” Gregson said. “I know a thing or two about teaching and learning, and students and faculty at PLU, so I can bring that into the equation and some of the other responsibilities of a typical president.
Gregson has been sociology professor at PLU for 19 years, and has served as Chair of the Faculty for the past year. Chair of the Faculty is an elected position, and Gregson represents the faculty and their interests to Board of Regent meetings.
Her transition to the president’s office is a bit more dramatic than Belton’s, moving from a full-time professor to a full-time administrator.
“My vocational plan was to be Professor of Sociology,” Gregson said. “So I was willing to take this detour on my career path for the year, not only because I know I work well with Allan, but also because of my commitment to the mission of PLU.”
Gregson and Belton hope they can split the responsibilities of the president, while using their independent experience to inform how the role is divided.
“You obviously need somebody with financial expertise, and you need someone with academic expertise, so put us together and you have it,” Gregson said.
Both Gregson and Belton anticipate only serving in these positions for two years at most before returning to their regular duties as vice president and professor.
“This is a one-time offer. I want to go back to my role; she wants to go back to her teaching role,” Belton said. “So we are here to help people move forward until we get a new president.”
WHAT WILL THEY DO?
Gregson and Belton said they don’t plan on any massive changes for PLU. Gregson described his acting president role as “paving the way” for the new permanent president.
However, two of their goals for next year include continuing conversations about university finances and hearing more from students like the Collective, a student activist group on campus.
Head of the Board of Regents Ed Grogan emphasized the importance of appointing candidates who value collaboration and exercise strong communications skills.
“We need leadership skills […] and we need the ability to speak between constituencies — to really hear the voices of students, faculty, administration and the board,” Grogan said. “We really want a spirit of shared government in an acting president.”
Grogan also said he hopes for more transformative leadership post-Krise.
“My hope is that we have two transformative leaders that will push PLU forward,” Grogan said.
According to Grogan, the board chose the two for their mix of financial knowledge and academic experience.
“Once this creative team solution became an option it was an easy solution,” Grogan said.
THE SEARCH FOR A NEW PRESIDENT
While Gregson and Belton move into their new offices in the Hauge Administration Building, a presidential search committee will form to start the year-long endeavor to find the next PLU president.
The committee is established by the Board of Regents and will include student, faculty and alumni representatives.
Past presidential searches were open to internal hires and applicants across the country. The former chair of the Board of Regents, Gary Severson, said it takes six to nine months to find a new senior executive.
“It’s pretty straightforward, but it’s a lot of work,” Severson said. “We’ll find a good replacement that’ll take over in the [2018-2019 academic year].”
Until then, Gregson and Belton have committed to a minimum of one year, with the understanding it may take two years to find a permanent replacement for Krise.