Preview of candidates for University President

This past fall, SMSU President Connie J. Gores announced that she will be retiring after this school year. There has been a search for the next president since then, and it was recently announced that the search committee has found four finalists. These finalists are scheduled to visit SMSU from Feb. 26 to 28.

Carmen Wilson was the first candidate to visit campus. She was here on Tue. Feb. 26. Her open session for faculty was from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in the Lower Level Conference Center. The open session for students was from 1:30-2:30 p.m. in the Lower Level Conference Center as well.

She has been provost at Dickinson State University (DSU) since 2016 and has also been vice president for Academic and Student Affairs since 2017. At the University of Wisconsin-Rock County (UW-Rock County), she was a campus executive officer and Dean. Among numerous positions at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-La Crosse), she was the chancellor’s Chief of Staff.

Wilson has helped implement an electronic early alert system at DSU. Their retention rate of first-year students has improved by 17 percent in the past two years, and their enrollment has grown by almost six percent. At the UW-Rock County, she cultivated new donors to create a new scholarship for the school.

Wilson’s bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate were all from Iowa State University.

Both Kumara Jayasuriya and Robert Johnson will have their campus visit on Wed. Feb. 27. Jayasuriya’s open session for students is from 12:30-1:30 p.m., faculty’s is 1:30-2:30 p.m. Both sessions are located in the Upper Level Conference Center. Johnson’s open session are reversed: faculty is from 12:30-1:30, and students are from 1:30-2:30. Both are in the Lower Level Conference Center.

Jayasuriya has been at West Virginia State University (WVSU) since 2014. His position there is provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, and a professor of mathematics. He has also served as associate Vice Chancellor for academic affairs at Purdue University-North Central Campus (PNC), as Dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics at Indiana University East, and as division chair of the Division of Natural Science and Mathematics again at Indiana University East (IU East).

At WVSU, Jayasuriya led the school to become the fourth best value school among small Universities and Colleges. He also helped make their online bachelor’s degree in English-Technical Writing one of the top online writing programs in the country (recognized by

Jayasuriya handled an Academic Affairs budget of approximately ten million dollars at PNC. He also created a summer incentive-based budget model to increase enrollment in departments and help them be more efficient. During his time at IU East, he also managed another budget: the $1.5 million one the school had.

His bachelor’s degree was earned from the University of Colorado, his master’s from Southern Illinois University, and his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Ronald Johnson was president of Clark Atlanta University from 2015 to 2018. He was also Dean of the Jesse H. Jones School of Business at Texas Southern University, Dean of the College of Business at Western Carolina University, and a professor at four other universities.

Three of Johnson’s most recent awards are the Leadership Excellence Award by the National Diversity Council in 2018, 100 Most Influential Atlantans by Atlanta Business Chronicle in 2018, and Atlanta Business League by Men of Influence in 2017.

Both his bachelor’s and master’s degree of business were earned from Adelphi University (NY). Johnsons also has a master’s and doctorate from Stanford University (CA).

Susan Elord was also running for the position of president, but withdrew herself from consideration.