Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

February 20, 2013

Presidential search continues

Second interview conducted by trustees Wednesday

By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Navarro College trustees continued work Wednesday in their search for a new college president to replace Dr. Richard Sanchez, who is retiring in August.

Dr. Ron Liss, Vice-President for Learning at Santa Fe Community College in Santa Fe, N.M., visited the campus Wednesday for a closed interview with college trustees, followed by a public forum for staff and the community held in the college’s Dawson Auditorium.

Liss, 58, previously served as Director of Academic and Student Services at Montgomery College in Maryland. He received a Bachelor of Science in Education from the State University College of New York at Buffalo; a Master of Arts in Instructional Design from the University of Maryland Baltimore County; and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education Leadership and Management from American University, Washington, D.C.

Liss said he and his wife, Anita, visited Corsicana in December, and said he was impressed with the community, its people, and the college.

“We ate in restaurants and went to grocery stores and talked to people,” Liss said. “It isn’t just coming to a job, it’s coming to a community — does it work for us? And, the answer is yes.”

Liss said he wasn’t “looking for a job,” but rather, “the right fit.” He called Navarro College “the next right fit.”

Liss said he felt he could bring a lot to the college should he be chosen.

“I bring the experiences forward that fit the kind of programming that takes place here,” he said. He cited experience in working with career and technical programs, transfer programs, and work with high schools.

“My goal, in looking at a college that has been so well run for 66 years, I feel I can bring continued stability to that,” he said. “Also, continue on the path of change and growth and moving forward.”

Liss described his management style as one of “connecting” with people.

“I need to connect with people, and build team, and build trust,” he said. “You don’t come in with trust ... it’s building those relationships, and using those relationships to move the college forward in positive ways.”

Liss said he enjoyed helping people “grow” professionally, and felt that was one of his “strong suits” in coming to a president’s position. In dealing with employees and staff who may be searching for an answer or a solution to a problem, he prefers to help them work it out instead of making a decision himself.

“What I do is work with them for them to come up with the solution, so the next time that comes up they have a process, a way of dealing with that situation ... I like to call it ‘Mentoring for Growth.’”

Liss also said he was experienced in working with business and industry to help develop career-technical programs to meet the needs of employers in the area, one of the areas that Navarro College has excelled in.

“I’ve done that a good part of my career,” he said. “That requires that connection to businesses and industry, as well as bringing them on as partners in our advisory programs.”

Liss became emotional when asked about his views on safety and security on campus, citing first-hand experiences with family members of victims of the 9-11 terrorist strike against the nation, and about legislation before the Texas legislature that would allow guns to be carried on campus by concealed handgun licensees.

He paused as he told the story of a girl he knew while living in Washington who lost a family member in the crash at the Pentagon. He said she dropped out of school after the attacks.

“It’s personal,” he said. “Virginia Tech was just down the road — it’s personal.”

Liss said he felt that allowing weapons to be carried on campus was not a solution to the instances of violence that have occurred recently.

“I’ve talked with many experts,” he said. “Their advice — don’t bring guns on campus.”

He stressed the importance of having an emergency response team, plans for that team, and practice.

“It’s not just how a team handles it,” he added. “It’s everyone’s responsibility.”

Liss said his time in Corsicana allowed him time to visit with a number of college staffers and the community.

“From my perspective, it’s been great,” he said. “I hope they are seeing the same thing from me, that it’s a team that can be brought together.”

Because of the bomb threat that was called into the college on Wednesday, the visit with Dr. Barbara Kavalier scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 21 has been moved to Friday, Feb. 22. Kavalier will meet in closed session with college trustees Friday morning, and attend a public forum in Dawson Auditorium Friday at 3 p.m.

College trustees will hold their regular board meeting at 7 p.m. Friday.

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Bob Belcher may be reached by email at bbelcher@corsicanadailyun.com. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com