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Bartels takes interim lead at GSU
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Jean Bartels, the interim president of Georgia Southern University, came to the campus in 1999 as chair of the School of Nursing. - photo by Photo courtesy of the Statesboro Herald

STATESBORO—Dr. Jean Bartels expects to lead Georgia Southern University into the 2015-16 academic year as interim president while a search for a new permanent president is conducted with input from the campus and community.

Her interim role officially begins July 20, the day that departing GSU President Brooks Keel becomes president of Georgia Regents University in Augusta. Bartels had no firm information on the shape the search will take. But in an interview Thursday she described her expectations based on experience, as well as her outlook for the job now before her.

“Certainly I have a very strong affiliation with the institution and a very strong dedication and commitment to what happens here, so I feel not only honored but very hopeful about taking on the position,” Bartels said. “This is a wonderful opportunity and I’m looking forward to it being a great adventure.”

Six vice presidents form the president’s cabinet for the 20,000-student regional university. In her ordinary role as provost and president for academic affairs, Bartels has been second-in-command.

Through her supervision of academic affairs, she said, she felt “responsible for a great majority of the institution already” but now will have an opportunity to work more closely with other aspects, such as student activities and enrollment, business and finance, and university advancement.
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Regents decide, with input

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia ultimately will hire a new president for Georgia Southern, just as the regents approved Keel on Wednesday for the GRU job. The University System’s chief executive, Chancellor Hank Huckaby, then named Bartels to the interim post.

As of Thursday morning, when a stream of reporters took turns interviewing her, Bartels had not had a conversation with Huckaby about plans for the search.

“I can tell  you that in the past, the searches  that  we’ve done at Georgia Southern, some of which I’ve been a part of as a  member, have been very engaging and very inclusive of members from the institution: students, faculty, staff, as well as community members and others,” Bartels told  the Statesboro Herald.

A campus committee usually advises the Board of Regents in the selection.  A regent typically chairs the committee, but professors, administrators, students and community representatives are also appointed.

In 2009, six finalists visited the GSU campus and were introduced to the public in a series of forums before one of them, Keel, was hired and took office in January 2010. Bartels expects something similar to happen again.

“Again, that’s been our history,” she said.  “The chancellor will make the decision about what the search would look like and what we would do. I can’t imagine, however, a search not including the community having an opportunity to meet candidates that were being considered for the final position.”

Bartels had no timeline for the search, but noted that it will probably take a number of months and won’t begin before the new academic year, which starts Aug. 10.

“I am fully confident that I will start the year as the interim president and we won’t be having any search happen between now and that time,” she said. “I anticipate that would happen into the next year — when, I’m not sure.”

Keel’s legacy

Bartels also was asked for her view of Keel’s accomplishments.
“First off, he leaves a wonderful legacy for Georgia Southern and came to the university with a great vision of expanding our opportunities in the areas of great and effective teaching as well as extraordinary research opportunities,” she said.
Under Keel’s leadership, Bartels noted, Georgia Southern added an eighth subject-area college, the College of Engineering and Information Technology. She mentioned the Herty Advanced Materials Development Center, transferred to Georgia Southern’s control two years ago, as one source of added research value.
Many people may think first of last year’s move of Eagles athletics into the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision as Keel’s finest moment, Bartels acknowledged. But her own choice is different.
“Certainly that was a moment I know he enjoyed,” she said. “But I think his biggest contribution was what he did in terms of expanding the research vision of the institution.”

Bartels’ background

Bartels has been part of Georgia Southern since 1999, when she arrived as a professor and the chair of the School of Nursing. She served as dean of the GSU College of Health and Human Sciences before taking office as provost and vice president for academic affairs on July 1, 2012.

Before coming to Georgia Southern, Bartels served about 15 years as the chair of nursing at Alverno College in Milwaukee.

Although seldom interviewed as provost, she said she was familiar with media attention through her past service as national president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Bartels received a diploma in nursing from Columbia Hospital School in Milwaukee, her bachelor’s degree from Alverno College, her master’s from Marquette University and a Ph.D. in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Whether Bartels will want to seek the permanent job of GSU president remains to be seen, she said.

A Board of Regents policy ordinarily bars interim presidents from applying for the permanent post, but the regents sometimes make exceptions, said Charles Sutlive, the University System’s vice chancellor for communications. The regents chose Dr. Cheryl Dozier as president of Savannah State University in 2012 after she served as interim president for a year.

The chancellor and regents chairman will name a campus committee for the search, Sutlive said. He confirmed that announced visits to campus by three to five, or more, finalists are a standard part of the process for universities such as Georgia Southern.

That pattern was not followed for Georgia Regents University, where Keel was the only announced finalist. But Sutlive pointed out that GRU is one of the state’s four research universities and said the process is different for these.