Presidential Search

SMC Trustees approve Dr. Odenwald's contract

Published on 11/07/19

Dr. Joseph OdenwaldOn Thursday, November 7, 2019, the Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees held a special meeting to approve the final contract of Dr. Joe Odenwald, incoming eighth president of SMC.

At the October 21 regular meeting, the Board-appointed compensation committee delivered binders to the full Board which included data from two national sources as well as all of Michigan’s other community colleges and a “boiler plate” draft contract constructed by the college’s attorney.

Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon noted, “Board members have spent three weeks reviewing the report provided by the president’s compensation committee with the goal of crafting a fair and competitive contract. Odenwald’s contract provides for a base salary of $166,550, as well as health care, retirement contributions and other fringe benefits common to presidents’ contracts. This salary and benefits package is lower than national averages and completely in line with the State data, as well as being commensurate with local community colleges, paying a little more than Glen Oaks Community College and a little less than Lake Michigan College.”

The 3.5-year contract starts January 1, 2020 and runs through June 30, 2023 to align with SMC’s fiscal year. During that time, Dr. Odenwald will be eligible for salary increases at the same rate as other employees at the college.

Dr. Odenwald has served as SMC’s Vice President of Student Services since 2017, coming to Dowagiac after working as Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and Student Services at Louisiana State University College of Engineering. Previously, he held several positions at Mississippi College, including Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Life while teaching graduate courses as a member of the Adjunct Faculty. Odenwald earned his Bachelor of Arts from Louisiana College, a Master of Science from Mississippi College and his Doctor of Education from The University of Southern Mississippi.

Odenwald replaces Dr. David Mathews, SMC’s longest-serving president at 18 years, who is retiring at the end of 2019 after 22 years with the college.


SMC Board names Dr. Joseph Odenwald as next president

Published on 10/21/19

Dr. Joseph Odenwald After a detailed evaluation process and public discussion of the four finalists at its regular monthly meeting this evening, the Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name Dr. Joseph L. Odenwald to succeed Dr. David Mathews as SMC’s eighth president.

“We appreciate the interest of all four candidates in serving as SMC’s next president and sincerely appreciate the effort they have put into the interview process,” Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon said. “The Board was immensely impressed by their insights and ideas. The experience and professionalism of all four is a testament to the strength of this institution. However, after much deliberation and consideration over the last few weeks, we all believe that Dr. Odenwald is the best fit at this time to lead SMC to meet the opportunities and challenges of the future.”

On August 6, Mathews, SMC’s longest-serving president at 18 years, announced his retirement at the end of 2019 after 22 years with the college. During its August meeting, the Board of Trustees voted to conduct an internal search process. Four internal candidates applied, were interviewed on September 30, and were asked to submit written responses to additional questions by October 7. Video recordings of the interview sessions and the candidates’ written responses can be found below.

Dr. Odenwald has served as SMC’s Vice President of Student Services since 2017, coming to Dowagiac after working as Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and Student Services at Louisiana State University College of Engineering. Previously, he held several positions at Mississippi College, including Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Life while teaching graduate courses as a member of the Adjunct Faculty. Odenwald earned his Bachelor of Arts from Louisiana College, a Master of Science from Mississippi College, and his Doctor of Education from The University of Southern Mississippi.

Jerdon also shared salary and benefits data from national sources as well as all Michigan community colleges, which will be used by the Compensation Committee to construct an employment contract for Dr. Odenwald. The intention is to finalize a proposed contract which will be discussed and considered for approval at a special board meeting in the near future.

Upon approval of that contract by the Board of Trustees, Dr. Odenwald will immediately begin transition work and officially assume his duties as president on January 1, 2020.


Candidates respond to written questions

Published on 10/14/19

As the final part of the interview process, the Board of Trustees gave each candidate a set of questions and asked them to respond with a brief paragraph. The candidates' responses may be viewed below.

Candidate Responses to Written Questions

Dr. David Fleming

Dr. Lucian Leone

Dr. Joseph Odenwald

Dr. Stacy Young


Board interviews four candidates

Published on 10/01/19

The Board of Trustees conducted public interviews with four candidates for SMC's next president during a special board meeting on Monday, September 30 in the Fred L. Mathews Library and Conference Center.

All interviews were recorded and are available at the links below.

All candidates were asked the same set of questions during the interview and were also given a set of written questions to answer by Monday, October 7. Both sets of questions are linked below.

The next board meeting is scheduled for October 21 at 7 p.m.

Read the Herald Palladium's coverage of the interviews here.

Read Leader Publications' coverage of the interviews here.

Candidate Interview Recordings

Dr. David Fleming Interview

Dr. Lucian Leone Interview

Dr. Joseph Odenwald Interview

Dr. Stacy Young Interview

Interview Questions

In-person Interview Questions

Written Response Questions


Presidential search process and candidate interview schedule released

Published on 09/23/19

The Board of Trustees released an outline of the process they will use to select SMC's next president. See the outline here.

The Board voted at their September 16 meeting to interview all four candidates who had applied to be SMC's next president. The interviews will take place on Monday, September 30 at 7:45 a.m. in Mathews Conference Center West. A schedule of the interviews can be found here.


Chairman Tom Jerdon: Input valuable for finding new SMC president

Published on 09/23/19

Chairman Tom Jerdon's letter to the editor published in the Dowagiac Daily News on Sept. 18 and in the Herald Palladium on Sept. 20.

Editor,

I would like to thank all of the taxpayers who have contacted trustees personally and/or attended Southwestern Michigan College’s September Board of Trustees meeting to provide input on the qualities and characteristics they would like to see in the eighth president of SMC.

SMC has enjoyed a series of extraordinary presidents who have led the institution for the past 55 years. In addition to their leadership and vision, they have provided great stability to the institution. Since 1971 SMC has had only four presidents.

This is in stark contrast to national trends and also in stark contrast to our two neighboring community colleges that have had nine presidents combined (and three terminations) during the time that Dr. Mathews has been SMC’s president.

The Michigan Constitution, the Michigan Community College Act and the bylaws of the SMC Board of Trustees all clearly spell out that it is the responsibility of the Board of Trustees to select and appoint the president. In doing so, trustees are upholding their fiduciary responsibility to the citizen-owners of the college—i.e. the taxpayers.

Trustees are responsible to the taxpayers to provide affordable access to high quality education in our community. Trustees, and the SMC presidents, have a strong history of balanced budgets, no deferred maintenance and providing the best facilities for our students and employees. Through deliberate budgeting, SMC also has 60 percent more full-time faculty per full-time equated student than the state average.

The SMC Board values each and every college employee, be they a maintenance worker, support staff member, administrator or faculty member. SMC employees deliver exceptional education and services to students day in and day out. Nonetheless, it is the roughly 55,000 citizens of our college district that trustees have been elected to represent.

We appreciate all of the input taxpayers have provided. This will guide us in our final selection of the next president, making sure that SMC is as successful in the next 50 years as it has been for the past 50 years.

Thomas F. Jerdon

Chairman, SMC Board of Trustees


SMC Board hears public input on presidential interview process

Published on 09/16/2019

At the regular monthly meeting on September 16, the Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees began the second phase of the interview process for identifying its next president. The Board had solicited public input on the characteristics most desired in its next leader, and trustees heard from 12 individuals, including taxpayers, current faculty, former employees and a representative from the Michigan Education Association.

The Board then voted unanimously to conduct interviews on September 30 on the Dowagiac campus with all four internal candidates to succeed Dr. David Mathews as SMC’s eighth president.

On August 6, Mathews, SMC’s longest-serving president at 18 years, announced his retirement at the end of 2019 after 22 years with the college. During its August 19 meeting, the Board of Trustees voted 6-1 to begin with an internal search process. The window for interested candidates to apply was open for several weeks and closed on September 10.

Four candidates have formally applied for the position, including Dr. David Fleming, Vice President of Instruction; Dr. Lucian Leone, Director of Admissions; Dr. Joseph Odenwald, Vice President of Student Services; and Dr. Stacy Young, Dean of the School of Business and Advanced Technology.

“We are pleased with the experience of these four candidates and their interest in serving as SMC’s next president,” Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon said. “They each bring knowledge from previous positions with different colleges and universities, providing perspective that, when combined with their solid understanding of SMC’s current strengths and challenges, makes them valuable leaders already. The Board looks forward to learning more about their vision and plans for SMC.”

Members of the public are invited to observe the interviews in person. A schedule and further details will be made available on this web page at a later date.


Southwestern Michigan College announces four candidates for president

Published on 09/11/2019

Southwestern Michigan College announced today that four internal candidates have formally applied to succeed Dr. David Mathews to become its eighth president.

On August 6, Mathews, SMC’s longest-serving president at 18 years, announced his retirement at the end of 2019 after 22 years with the college. During its August 19 meeting, the Board of Trustees voted to begin with an internal search process. The window for interested candidates to apply was open for several weeks and closed on September 10.

In alphabetical order, the four candidates include:

Dr. David Fleming

Dr. David Fleming

Dr. David Fleming has served as SMC’s Vice President of Instruction since 2011. Previously, he held various positions at Davenport University, including Executive Director of Faculty Development and Assessment, Vice President for Academic Services and Executive Vice President for Academics and Provost. Fleming earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from West Virginia University and his Doctor of Philosophy from Indiana University.


Dr. Lucian Leone

Dr. Lucian Leone

Dr. Lucian Leone currently serves as SMC’s Director of Admissions. He joined the college in 2018 after working as the Director of Operations at the Institute for Professional Excellence at Davenport University. Previously, he held several director-level positions at Lansing Community College and served as the Associate Dean for the College of Business at Ferris State University. Leone earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan, a Master of Arts and a Master of Business Administration from Eastern Michigan University and his Doctor of Philosophy from Michigan State University.


Dr. Joseph Odenwald

Dr. Joseph Odenwald

Dr. Joseph Odenwald has served as SMC’s Vice President of Student Services since 2017, coming to Dowagiac after working as Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and Student Services at Louisiana State University College of Engineering. Previously, he held several positions at Mississippi College, including Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Life while teaching graduate courses as a member of the Adjunct Faculty. Odenwald earned his Bachelor of Arts from Louisiana College, a Master of Science from Mississippi College, and his Doctor of Education from The University of Southern Mississippi.


Dr. Stacy Young

Dr. Stacy Young

Dr. Stacy Young has served as SMC’s Dean of the School of Business and Advanced Technology since 2013, having held several positions at the college including Dean of the Niles Campus. Prior to joining SMC in 2005, she was Adjunct Faculty at Ferris State University and Davenport University, and she worked in management and auditing at several companies. Young earned her Bachelor of Science from Manchester University, a Master of Business Administration from Bethel University and her Doctor of Philosophy from Andrews University.

The Board welcomes community input on what characteristics and qualities are desired in SMC’s next president. Those with comments are invited to the next regular Board meeting, scheduled at 7 p.m. on September 16 in the David C. Briegel Building on the Dowagiac campus. The Board likely will also discuss next steps in the process, including timing of the in-person interviews.


Job Description - President

Published on 08/21/2019

Below is a link to the most recent Board-approved job description for the position of SMC President. As the selection process unfolds, the Board of Trustees may choose to update specific elements of this description, but this version will provide a good overview of Board expectations for the college president.

Job Description - President


SMC conducting internal search for president

Published on 08/19/2019

The Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees tonight decided to begin with an internal search to identify possible candidates to succeed Dr. David Mathews as SMC’s eighth president.

After an extensive discussion on the merits and risks of doing a national search immediately versus evaluating professional talent already working at the College, the Board voted 6-1 to begin with the internal search. The consensus was that paying an external search firm could cost taxpayers $75,000 or more with no guarantee the selected candidate would provide the cultural fit or long-term stability the College has enjoyed in the past.

Mathews, SMC’s longest-serving president at 18 years, Aug. 6 announced his retirement at the end of 2019 after 22 years with the College.

“SMC is already in the top 10 percent of community colleges in many of the performance metrics we track on the Institutional Report Card,” Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon said, adding, “It’s a stretch to think we could find a leader to keep SMC on the right track from a different, lower-performing institution.”

The Board directed that the position of President will be posted as soon as possible for internal candidates, with the application period closing in time for materials to be available to the Board by the September meeting. Chairman Jerdon added, “We welcome community input on what characteristics and qualities are desired in SMC’s next president. We invite those with comments to join us at the next regular Board meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 16.”

Mathews, Dowagiac Union High School’s 1978 valedictorian, joined SMC in 1997 from Central Michigan University’s graduate mathematics faculty as Dean of Arts and Sciences and Instruction Innovation. He was promoted to Vice President of Instruction in 1998.

The Board of Trustees appointed Mathews SMC’s seventh president effective July 1, 2001.

Jerdon also noted that Mathews’ predecessors, David C. Briegel (SMC’s fifth president, 1981-1998) and Dr. Marshall Bishop (SMC’s sixth president, 1998-2001), were also promoted from within and were excellent presidents for the institution.

Mathews, a former Army Green Beret, holds a doctoral degree in mathematics from North Carolina State University and a bachelor’s degree from Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University. Besides CMU, he taught math at Longwood College in Virginia.


President Mathews announces retirement

Published on 08/06/2019

Dr. David Mathews announced today that he will retire as president of Southwestern Michigan College on December 31st of this year. He is the College’s longest-serving president.

Mathews joined SMC in 1997 from Central Michigan University’s graduate mathematics faculty as Dean of Arts and Sciences and Instructional Innovation, and was promoted to Vice President of Instruction in 1998. The Board of Trustees in 2001 appointed Mathews as SMC’s seventh president, which he has been for 18 of his 22 years with the college.

“The Board of Trustees recognizes and appreciates the tremendous positive impact Dr. David Mathews has had on Southwestern Michigan College,” Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon said. According to Chairman Jerdon, the most visible and enduring achievements of President Mathews have been outstanding student success, strategic planning, facilities improvements, and fiscal responsibility.

“Student success has been President Mathews’ top priority for his entire career at SMC. SMC has achieved exceptional student success including student retention rates in the top 10 percent nationally, exceptional student success rates relative to peers, outstanding transfer student success rates, a consistent rise in student satisfaction, and a 66% increase in the number of associate degrees awarded each year.

President Mathews has advanced the College over the past two decades through a comprehensive strategic planning process. He has also consistently prioritized the investment in more full-time faculty, increasing the number of full-time positions from 45 in 1997 to 60 for 2018-19. Institutional progress on over twenty different metrics is now continually monitored and reported to the Board through SMC’s Institutional Report Card.

The appraised value of SMC’s physical plant has more than tripled during his time as President, from $36 million in 2001 to $128.7 million in 2018. College growth under Mathews also includes the construction of three self-supporting residence halls, all built without increasing local tax rates. During his tenure as president, Mathews has secured $12.85 million in state funding for SMC building projects, including Mathews Conference Center East and the Kairis, Daugherty, O’Leary and nursing buildings.

President Mathews has developed and executed 18 consecutive balanced budgets. The investments in student success and facilities improvements have all been done within budget. Additionally, under Mathews the SMC Foundation has grown from $1.3 million in assets to more than $12 million, making a huge impact on wider scholarship availability for students” concluded Chairman Jerdon.

President Mathews said, “I will turn 60 years old during this coming academic year. I have a number of personal adventures that I would still like to complete, but that simply would not be possible while serving as College President. I have enjoyed working for such a committed Board of Trustees, and with a truly exceptional group of administrators, staff, and faculty. I appreciate the opportunity that I have had to make a difference at SMC, and I especially appreciate everyone’s commitment to student success in every decision that is made at the College. I will assist the Board in every possible way to ensure that the College experiences a smooth and successful transition to new presidential leadership.”