Editorial: Collaboration is key in SEMO president selection

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Southeast Missouri State University is important beyond measure to Cape Girardeau and the surrounding region.

The institution doesn't just provide education, a good one, to generations of people; it provides jobs for educators. It equips people for the workforce. It provides intellectual and cultural diversity in its students and employees. All of these factors are big reasons why Cape Girardeau continues to thrive in the 21st century.

The university's board of regents last week selected the person who will be tasked to lead the university into the next era.

Dr. Carlos Vargas-Aburto will succeed Dr. Ken Dobbins as president of the institution.

Vargas is acting president of Kutztown University, a regional campus of around 9,500 students in rural Pennsylvania. He is a native of Mexico; he earned his master's degree and Ph.D. in physics and aerospace science from the University of Michigan, and has a long history of important roles in higher education over the course of his career.

Much was written about Vargas in the lead up to his endorsement, and in the days following.

There is no question Vargas is qualified. We look forward to seeing his collaborative approach in action. Such collaboration is a big reason the Cape Girardeau region has flourished in recent decades. Public and private institutions here have a track record of working with rather than against one another. Cape Girardeau is better for the camaraderie. Vargas will add to an impressive collection of smart, innovative people who shape our collective landscape.

The process by which Vargas was selected is worth noting and celebrating.

A presidential search committee, which included community members and university faculty, whittled 46 candidates down to four. It was an intense exercise, and a lot of work and -- here's that word again -- collaboration went into the selection. From there, the board of regents selected Vargas.

Dobbins has been at the helm of the university for 16 years. What a 16 years it's been, a far longer tenure than the national average. Dobbins guided the university in a smart, analytical way. The university is in great shape for Vargas.

We wish the best for Vargas. He's a brilliant person with a passion for education. We feel he will be a great fit.

To all who were involved in the process, including the committee and board of regents, we thank you for your time and commitment.

To Vargas, we say, welcome to Cape Girardeau.

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