Major university donors, a first generation college graduate, several doctors and a dean are all part of the 17-person search committee that will identify candidates for the next OU president.
The committee members have different careers, sets of expertise and backgrounds, but each has an impact on the university.
“Principled people who care first and foremost about the University of Oklahoma and will make the best possible decision for the university — that was our fundamental criteria,” said Clayton Bennett, chairman of OU’s Board of Regents, after the Regents named the committee on Oct. 23.
The five faculty and seven at-large members will have one vote each, the two staff members will have half a vote each and the three students will have a one-third vote each.
Cameron Burleson, the Student Government Association vice president, is the Norman campus undergraduate on the committee. He said he thinks that being a part of a variety of organizations on campus, including SGA, Campus Activities Council and his fraternity, gives him a wide perspective on the concerns of students in different areas of campus.
“What I know for sure is that this position is not about me,” Burleson said. “One person should not be making that vote. It should be the representation of every single student on this campus.”
Barbara Braught, executive director of the McCasland Foundation, which gives grants with a focus on education in Oklahoma, was chosen as one of the at-large committee members. She lives in Duncan, Oklahoma, and said she sees her role on the committee as representing the public in southwest Oklahoma.
“I have several family members that are still students at the University of Oklahoma right now, so of course that makes it extremely important for me, but I really think that I … have the goal of making the University of Oklahoma strong for all students, particularly those in southwest Oklahoma,” Braught said.
Burleson said the SGA has been coming up with ideas for how to reach as many students as possible, such as sending out surveys and making a video to show students how to access the SGA office, so that it will be more accessible for students to voice their concerns about the next president.
“I think the most important thing about this position to me is making sure that first and foremost, I’m not just available to the students, but understand that I am a representation of the students’ voice, not a representation of Cameron Burleson,” Burleson said.
The students Burleson has spoken with have said they want a president with four key characteristics, he said. These include someone that is “intentional” with students and addresses what they see as problems, ensures that students can get a great education no matter what they are studying, will think of students first when dealing with budget cuts and values diversity on campus to make all students feel welcome.
“Not just welcome in the fact that like ‘Hey I’m going to shake your hand and use you as a prop’ or something like that,” Burleson said. “But saying that ‘I’m going to implement lasting change, lasting policies here that are going to allow you to thrive here on this campus no matter where you’re from.’”
After President David Boren announced his retirement on Sept. 20, he said he wants the next OU president to have a sincere love of the university.
Krystal Mitchell, the HSC student member, is the vice president and senate chair of the HSC SGA, and she said she is looking for someone who will continue Boren’s trajectory of making the HSC campus a more connected community.
“Really having someone that can deal with all of the emerging challenges that face higher education would be one of the more important qualities due to the climate we’re in,” Mitchell said.
George Richter-Addo is a chemistry and biochemistry professor and one of the Norman campus faculty committee members.
“The interest of the students comes first because the university is for the students,” Richter-Addo said. “President Boren has been fantastic and outstanding in all respects, so we’re hoping that we can continue that path.”
Braught said that one of her major goals on the committee and in life is to help represent all the students in Oklahoma who want a quality education, and leadership is a key quality she is looking for in OU’s next president.
“I think the OU president has got to be the best leader that we can find that can work with private donors and the legislature… as well as being able to be a leader on the academic side,” Braught said.
Here is more on each of the 17 committee members.
Mary Sue Backus is a presidential professor and has been part of OU’s law faculty since 2004. She was previously a lawyer in Washington, D.C. and is a member of the Virginia Bar and the District of Columbia Bar. She also serves on the board of directors for a nonprofit citizenship education program for high schoolers.
Sherri Irvin is a presidential research professor of philosophy and women’s and gender studies and co-director of the Center for Social Justice. She holds a doctorate degree from Princeton and specializes in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. In addition to working on two books of her own, she serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Philosophy Compass and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
George Richter-Ado is a presidential professor who researches bioinorganic, inorganic and structural biology. He is the principal investigator of the Richter-Addo Research Group, and he has a doctorate degree from the University of British Columbia.
Michael Bronze is a professor and chair of OU’s department of medicine. He has certifications in infectious disease and internal medicine. He serves on several national committees and is a fellow in the American College of Physicians and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Kelly Standifer is a pharmacology professor and chair of OU’s department of pharmaceutical sciences. She has a doctorate degree from the University of Florida, and researches alternative therapeutic options for the treatment of severe pain.
Matthew Rom is the manager of custodial and housekeeping services and indoor pest control at OU. He received his bachelor’s degree from OU and his masters of education from the University of Central Oklahoma. He has served on the Norman campus staff senate, the Norman Chamber of Commerce Weather Committee and the Moore Norman Service Careers Advisory Committee.
Nancy Geiger is a manager within the department of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, at the HSC campus.
Cameron Burleson is a political science senior and vice president of the Student Government Association. He plans to attend OU College of Law after he graduates in May. He has been involved with Campus Activities Council, Union Programming Board and the Student Alumni Association, and was previously president of Alpha Tau Omega.
Caroline Pavlowsky is a doctoral student studying geography and the chair of the Graduate Student Senate. She researches human dimensions of climate change impacts and works as a teaching assistant.
Krystal Mitchell is a fourth year College of Medicine student and the HSC SGA vice president and senate chair. She is a first-generation college graduate, and co-founded Empowering Our Urban Girls, which aims to give underprivileged girls opportunities to succeed.
David Rainbolt is the executive chairman of BancFirst Corporation and was previously its CEO. Recently, the Rainbolt family made a substantial gift in support of OU’s Graduate School of Business, which will be named after Gene Rainbolt, David’s father.
Gregg Garn is the dean of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education and executive director of the K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal. He also teaches educational leadership and policy studies as a presidential professor and has authored a number of articles.
Barbara Braught is the executive director of the McCasland Foundation, owned by her family and established by T.H. McCasland, for whom the McCasland Field House was named. She is also a retired trustee of the OU Foundation, and one of her sons attends OU.
R. Marc Nuttle is a Norman-based attorney and a managing member of Sovereign Oklahoma Development, LLC. He is a board member of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and a member of Governor Mary Fallin’s International Team. Formerly, he was executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee and has advised five U.S. presidents.
Russell Perry is a publisher, broadcaster, businessman and former state official. He is a member of the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He started the Perry Publishing Company and The Black Chronicle, which is a newspaper that serves Oklahoma’s African American community.
Robert Ross is the president and CEO of the Inasmuch Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Both are two of Oklahoma’s largest private foundations and were established by Edith Kinney Gaylord. He is also a member of the board of directors for multiple colleges including the Gaylord College of Journalism’s Board of Visitors.
Charles Stephenson is a petroleum industry executive and private capital company founder who received his bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering and an honorary doctorate from OU. He founded the Stephenson Family Foundation and contributed to the Stephenson Research and Technology Center and the Stephenson Life Sciences Research Center at OU.