Matt Rogers, Co-Editor-in-Chief
New Utica College president Laura Casamento has big shoes to fill.
Although students seem to be split on the decision, just about everybody on campus agrees that Todd Hutton’s presidency, which spanned 18 years and included numerous improvements for the college, is a tough act to follow.
“I think that Casamento will be stepping into this position in a critical time for Utica College,” graduate student Jacob Nigolian said. “Hutton has done a phenomenal job in his tenure at Utica College and has really brought this institution to the next level. The entire Utica College community will be looking to her to continue Utica’s rise.”
While many students supported the hiring, others didn’t like the way the selection was handled. Casamento was hired by the Utica College Board of Trustees, and some students think the board made its decision far before any interviews had taken place.
“I think the hiring process was fixed and the board knew who they were going to choose as president a while ago,” senior Claire Davis said. “It is unfortunate for the other candidates as their time appears to have been wasted intentionally.”
Junior Sam Hennet did not insinuate that the decision was a conspiracy, but noted she felt the board acted without the interests of the campus community.
“I think the move was incorrect because of the obvious negative feedback from the campus and faculty,” she said. “It just seems as though the decision was made without the consideration of the people who matter here on campus, the faculty and students.”
Not all students felt that way. Sophomore Sean Drzewiecki, who attended the student sessions with all three candidates, thought the school made the correct decision. Citing her experience at UC, he believes Casamento was the right choice.
“I believe that out of all of the candidates, Utica College made the correct choice in hiring Laura Casamento,” Drzewiecki said. “The hiring of a female candidate who was also the most qualified candidate was an excellent decision by the board.”
The search for UC’s president, headed by Mark Salsbury and aided by the search firm R.H. Perry, was a national search and saw 113 applications from across the country come in. While the search committee narrowed the candidate pool down to three finalists, ultimately the board made the final decision.
Despite the large candidate pool, Nigolian says he likes that Casamento is already a part of UC, and knows the college’s goals and concerns.
“I think that it is always good to look within any organization that is doing well for new hirings,” he said. “Casamento knows Utica College, she knows where it came and the direction it is heading.”
Even those against the decision believe Casamento’s existing relationship with UC will make the transition smoother. A native of West Utica, Casamento has cited her existing relationships with local politicians as one of her strengths.
“One thing that impressed me about Casamento was her close connections to important people around the community,” Hennet said. “So hopefully she can use these connections to make further improvements on campus or off for the college.”
Graduate student Cassie Plows says Casamento has the strong presence that is necessary in a leader.
“From my experience with the interviews and my interactions with her, Ms. Casamento is a very powerful leader and displays the confidence needed to be a president,” she said.
While the debate continues on campus from the classrooms to the cafeteria, students can agree that they hope Casamento continues to move UC forward.
“President Hutton was a great president and I hope this change will be beneficial to everyone on campus,” Davis said. “I truly hope Ms. Casamento holds the school to as high a value as he did.”