The committee leading the search to identify the best candidates for Southern University president and chancellor expects to begin mulling ré sumés and letters of interest next month.

The search committee met for about an hour on Thursday, discussing the model that will be used to narrow the pool of candidates for the newly merged position.

Several key areas emerged as priorities for committee members, ranging from classroom experience to an in-depth understanding of budgeting and fundraising.

“I personally felt as though it was necessary, or it would be very valuable, to have a candidate who understands funding mechanisms,” said Southern University Faculty Senate President Tom Miller, a member of the search panel. “If there’s any issue that has real priority right now, it’s understanding how the money works.”

Colleges and universities are facing steep funding cuts in the coming year if Louisiana legislators don’t figure out how to fill the state’s $1.6 billion budget gap.

During a hearing at the State Capitol this week, Southern University President Ron Mason touted the merging of the president and chancellor roles as an example of the system’s commitment to being fiscally responsible during lean budget years.

Mason’s contract expires June 30, and the Baton Rouge campus has been without a permanent chancellor since last year’s ouster of Chancellor James Llorens. The Southern University System Board of Supervisors hopes to name a new leader by July 1.

Mason, who was not offered a contract extension by the board, interviewed for the president’s job at the University of the District of Columbia last week. He’s one of three finalists for the job, and a decision is expected to be made after the third finalist interviews this week.

Albert Sam, chairman of the search panel, said the ideas discussed Thursday wouldn’t necessarily translate to a hard and fast measure of candidates, but was a start in the process.

“It’s not like a test or ‘Here’s what we expect to see or hear,’ ” Sam said. “It’s going to be varied, but we need to see from a candidate that what they’re saying is applicable to what we need here.”

The search committee was scheduled to meet again May 7, but Sam said that date will be pushed back to allow more time for early review of application materials.

The meeting likely will be a week or two after that, Sam said.

“That will be a big day for us,” he said.

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