BY CIEL ZHANG
At the announcement of Agnes Scott College’s 9th President-Elect Jan. 9 stood one student who has been a part of the eight-month Presidential Search Process, Emily Duncan ’19. Along with Duncan, there was another student who served on the Committee, Taylor James ’19, who embarked on her study-abroad journey in South Africa this semester and was not able to be present at the announcement; however, she was able to provide insights via email.
Due to a confidentiality contract everyone on the committee had to sign, Duncan and James could only share information within a legal circumscription. Nonetheless, she offered a detailed account of her experience representing students during this crucial process that shapes the college’s future.
“It was a wonderful and rewarding experience for sure,” said Duncan, “the committee members listened closely to what I and Taylor had to say, and each of us gets one vote in the decision.” There was a total of sixteen committee members, all of whom followed a rigorous meeting schedule over the search process and almost always met for an extensive amount of time.
For James, she regarded this experience as “unique:” “I had never done anything like this before, but it was a process that matured me in different ways and allowed me to see Agnes Scott in a much more serious manner.”
Duncan also acknowledged the attention paid to ensure diversity within the committee, which, though sufficiently emphasized, is always the college’s priority, especially in such an important, historical process. James also regarded their representation of the student body as fairly comprehensive: “we were able to voice a variety of topics that affect the students.”
When asked about how she got involved with the process, Duncan and James both referred to an interview process which was presented to her as a private invitation, the reason for which they are still clueless about. According to Duncan, the two of them offered very different perspectives from the student body, which was appreciated among the committee. The two of them were acquainted with each other during first-year orientation – with her words “bonded over G-fly” – and grew closer over the search process as work partners.
“At first, I did know what to expect for this position at all,” said Duncan, “but everything we had to do made sense after all. We had to craft our emails and reach out to the student body. The workload got much more intense as soon as the school year started and I had to sacrifice a lot for this process.”
Every current student might still recall their emails with the PSC survey; it turns out that 20% of the student body responded to the survey, ranging fairly evenly from first year to senior year. “Some of the comments,” Duncan said, “were expected.” The students did unanimously wish for a president who is capable of representing diversity as well as understanding it in a nuanced way.
When asked about how she received the new President-Elect, Duncan said: “There are just some people who click with Agnes Scott, and Leocadia Zak was definitely one of the few who immediately find themselves comfortable on campus. Her global leadership fits perfectly with Agnes Scott’s prospective, while her political involvement with both [Republican and Democratic] parties should sound interesting to this very politically motivated campus.”
James’ comment on the choice of president Zak was equally positive: “She is extremely dedicated, smart, a true global leader and she knows how to get things done.”
Referring to President-Elect Zak’s Mount Holyoke background, both James and Duncan said they liked how she shares the women’s college experience with the students here and can really connect with the student body.
Also, given the high demand among students to attend law schools after graduation, President-Elect Zak’s professionalism serves as a great role model for their future.
When asked about her social life during the search process, Duncan said that she received a lot more requests of adding her on LinkedIn as well as a bigger reaction whenever she announces her name. Playfully, she called these “slightly unwanted attention.” James, on the other hand, had a deprivation of social life because of the rigorous search process: “I rarely saw friends during the weekdays because interviews took up most of the day for about a week.”