From left, Lyndsay Cumberland, Lyle Tate, Assistant to the President Perry Sansing and Tammy Godfrey watch a live telecast of the announcement of Dr. James Borsig as the potential candidate to become Mississippi University for Women’s next president at the Nissan Auditorium on MUW campus Thursday. Photo by: Luisa Porter
November 17, 2011 6:24:00 PM
The mood at Mississippi University for Women's Nissan Auditorium Thursday evening was one of bated breath and then finally, finally, a collective sigh of relief as a video sprang to life on the overhead projector screen and the announcement was made: A preferred candidate has been chosen as the college's next possible president.
The pick -- Dr. James Borsig, current associate commissioner for external relations and public policy for the College Board -- was unanimously chosen by the College Board Search Committee, Campus Search Advisory Committee and Interview Search Advisory Committee.
The announcement was made from the College Board's headquarters in Jackson and broadcast via live teleconference from the Board's website.
As the small clutch of predominantly faculty and staff members gripped cellphones, they sent a flurry of text messages and social media updates to colleagues and students who could not be present. Some turned to one another in shocked surprise, others gave approving nods, and others sat quietly, absorbing the news.
Afterward, many said they were excited about Borsig's expertise and accomplishments.
With more than 30 years' experience in higher education, government and the private sector, Borsig is an encouraging choice, noted Brian Anderson, who has taught political science at MUW for 13 years.
In addition to Borsig's current position with the College Board, he has held positions as the assistant commissioner for government relations for the board, executive assistant to the president of the University of Southern Mississippi and research and development coordinator for the John C. Stennis Institute of Government. He has served as a visiting professor for Jackson State University's Department of Urban and Regional Planning since 2007.
His College Board affiliation could prove beneficial in terms of establishing relationships with other universities, pooling resources and coping with state budget cuts, Anderson said.
A common theme in the Campus Listening Sessions, which were held in August to discuss characteristics students, faculty and other stakeholders wanted in the next president, was a desire for someone who could move the college forward and assertively promote its assets.
If Borsig is "the man for us," he'll be able to increase MUW's relevance and reach, building bridges with other institutions while maintaining The W's independence, Anderson said.
"At first blush ... I can guess as to why he was the hands-down favorite," he said.
As a male faculty member, Anderson was also pleased with the idea of a male president, a concept that was touted by some, irrelevant to others and anathema to a few during the feedback portion of the 20-step search process.
But MUW's 2,600-student population consists of males as well as females, Anderson stressed.
"Men go here, too," he said. "We're going to have to think of this as a (university) that can succeed rather than a women's university with an identity crisis."
For some, at least part of the appeal was that Borsig is a known entity -- he was on campus during April's homecoming festivities, which culminated with the merger of Mississippi's First Alumnae Association and the MUW Alumni Association.
Cassie Durden, director of admissions, met Borsig at that time and said she found him to be "extremely personable and approachable."
"I heard him speak and felt like he was honest, straightforward, approachable and humorous," she said. "I feel like he'll be real good for The W."
Durden, who has served as admissions director for 17 years and is an alumna, said the college has been part of her life for a long time, and the person who takes the helm is important on a personal, as well as an institutional, level.
"I am completely confident this is the right choice," she said. "I'm just so excited to have the stability of having a permanent president in place. ... It feels like we're doing nothing but going forward and getting stronger. We've had some great things happen, and this is just the icing on the cake."
Another person who has had firsthand experience with Borsig is senior political science major Jase Sayre from Winfield, Ala., who met him during a trip to the state Capitol.
Like Durden, he found him to be approachable, intellectually savvy and interested in education. They briefly discussed Sayre's studies as well as his future.
Though Sayre would like to know the names of the other candidates who were not chosen -- which the College Board has declined to release due to privacy concerns for the candidates -- he said he's confident that Borsig is "the right person."
"I think he's going to be awesome," Sayre said. "He's experienced in so many areas."
In the business sector, Borsig has served as manager of corporate information and planning for South Mississippi Electric Power Association, chief administrative officer for the cities of Biloxi and Hattiesburg and executive director of the Mississippi Municipal Association.
The Jackson native received his doctorate in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University. He holds a master's degree in political science with a concentration in public administration, as well as a bachelor's degree in political science and American Studies, from the University of Southern Mississippi. He also completed the Senior Executive Institute at the Weldon C. Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.
He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Boy Scouts of America's Order of the Arrow.
MUW alumna and professor emerita Barbara Garrett said though she had never heard his name before Thursday, she's excited about him and looking forward to his visit to campus Nov. 30.
"I think he will love our campus," Garrett said. "I know that everyone will quickly let him know what The W is all about."
The agenda for Borsig's visit will include meetings with community leaders, beginning at 8 a.m. in the President's Dining Room at MUW, followed by meetings with deans, department heads, faculty, staff, students and alumni throughout the day. Those meetings will be held in the Cochran Ballroom.
Borsig's tour will conclude with a 1:30 p.m. open meeting for the campus and community and a 3 p.m. meeting with the MUW Board of Trustees.
A press conference will follow at 3:30 p.m., at which time an official announcement is expected to be made as to whether or not he will be named as the college's next president.
The position has been filled by Interim President Allegra Brigham since May, following the retirement of then-President Claudia Limbert. Limbert had held the position since April 2002.
"Dr. Borsig is extremely qualified to serve as president of MUW," Brigham said Friday morning. "His varied professional experiences and his vast knowledge of higher education and government relations are major assets he will bring to the MUW presidency."
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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