Susan Ford has spent her career studying “dead monkeys and monkey bones,” but she knows that tackling SIU’s problems will be far from monkey business.
“The budget problem in this state is symptomatic of the overall state of higher education,” Ford, the university’s acting provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said at a forum Tuesday morning at the campus’ Morris Library. “We are going to have to build and adapt to what the state gives us based on what is already here.”
Ford, who joined the SIU community in 1979 as a visiting anthropology instructor, was the first of four candidates for campus chancellor to address the community, and she is the only one to come from within SIU’s current administration.
A former chair of the Department of Anthropology and interim dean of the graduate school prior to assuming the acting provost position in August 2014, Ford said her long experience with SIU gives her unique perspective on how to help the institution navigate uncertain financial waters while still holding on to its core principles.
Responding to questions from several campus constituency groups, she said she would encourage teamwork and shared governance as the primary means toward leading the university into the future.
“I can’t do it alone,” she said. “None of us can do it alone.”
Prior to her career at SIU, Ford received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Roanoke College in 1974 and her doctoral degree in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1980. Before her career in Carbondale, she also held positions at, among other places, the Smithsonian Institution and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
The other finalists for the chancellor position are Pam Benoit, executive vice president and provost at Ohio University; Sabah U. Randhawa, executive vice president and provost at Oregon State University; and Lawrence Schovanec, provost and senior vice president at Texas Tech University. All three also will appear at public forums in the coming weeks.
The candidate eventually hired by the SIU Board of Trustees will take over a position in dramatic limbo. Rita Cheng served in the position from 2010 until last summer, when she left and Paul Sarvela took over in an interim capacity.
Sarvela unexpectedly died late last year, and since then, SIU system President Randy Dunn has been balancing both the chancellor and president duties.