Earlier this year, it was announced that Dr. Jim Borsig was chosen to become the new Commissioner of Higher Education by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. The announcement came as a surprise to many students and faculty, though many said his appointment was well deserved. As Borsig transitions into his new role by April 15, the campus prepares for the coming changes and reflects on his impact as the university’s president.
Nora Miller, the senior vice president for administration and chief financial officer, remembers the days leading up to the announcement.
“There was just a lot of speculation. He was obviously the best person for that position, so it was just kind of widely rumored. We knew that he’d be sought out for it,” she said.
After the news was sent out to campus, many people wondered what would happen next.
“Of course, it changes because you don’t know who’s at the top and who the leader is going to be, and whether we’re going to continue with the vision that we’ve been working with. As far as on a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t necessarily change things that much,” Miller noted.
The IHL announced the presidential search committee soon after, notably comprised of three non-campus individuals. While some concern was understandable, an argument can be made that there is a virtue in having non-campus members on the committee, because they have a non-biased rationale to bring to proceedings.
“The IHL board has its own distinctive way of doing things, and they haven’t announced much other than to name those three people. I’m not surprised that they’re people that the board chose, and they’re not alums of the university or anything because they don’t want to create schisms, because once you put alums, or friends of the university on there, then people will ask ‘well if that person’s on there, then why not this other person?’ and so I think they want to create a sense of detached neutrality, fairness, and not be seen to show any sort of preference. But that’s me guessing why they did it that way, but I think that’s the direction they’re coming from,” said Dr. Brian Anderson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Miller noted that there would be opportunities for campus input. She suggested that there could be a campus listening session near the end of the semester.
“The way they’ve been handling this in the most recent searches, they’ll have a board committee, and actually most of the board, it acts as a committee as a whole. There will be several board members who will be charged with that committee, then they’ll have a campus committee that will include faculty, staff and students,” Miller said. “That larger group, they’ll kind of go through the whole thing, and then there’ll be a smaller group that would be a part of the interview process along with the board members.”
With all the talk of what the future might hold, campus members also reflected on what working with Borsig was like.
“I’ll always remember him as someone who, even in a restful moment of his, he has his ear open to the radio, or his eye on something that could be an opportunity or a threat and eternally vigilant,” Dr. Anderson said.
“The emphasis on data, and having the data to support decisions, and just his personality. He’s a great person to work with and work for. No matter how serious a topic was, he was easy to relate with and had a good sense of humor and just a very open personality,” Miller reminisced.
Claudia McDavis, a retention specialist with the student success center, recognized the lasting impact Borsig had on the university.
“His statements about change, how people are willing to change, but when change happens, they are not ready for change. With the changes he made to campus, it opened up more jobs. It opened up more opportunities,” she said. “One of the things I really appreciated from him was how he kept faculty and staff involved in the things that were going on around campus. So, I just think that he was hands on, but he let other people do what needed to be done in order to make a change for the university."