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Eight Semi-Finalists — Plus The Sitting Provost — Advance As Miami Dade College Presidential Search Ramps Up Yet Again

Miami Dade College students and staff get their temperatures checked when they arrive to the Wolfson Campus checkpoint on June 23, 2020.
Miami Dade College
Miami Dade College students and staff get their temperatures checked when they arrive to the Wolfson Campus checkpoint on June 23, 2020.

Miami Dade College's board of trustees is slated to choose a new president Nov. 17 — nearly two years after the search first began.

A Miami-Dade College search committee will interview candidates for its own presidency during the week of a presidential election, resuming the lengthy and tumultuous process to replace the beloved former leader of the college, Eduardo Padrón.

After a months-long hiatus due to the pandemic, the college's presidential search committee selected eight semi-finalists for the top job during a meeting at the downtown campus Wednesday afternoon.

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The initial search process, which started in early 2019, stalled after a new majority of board members appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed dissatisfaction with the existing pool of candidates — causing faculty union leaders to cry politics.

Lenore Rodicio — the current executive vice president and provost, and Padrón's own pick for his successor — is the sole internal candidate and only finalist to be retained from last year’s search. Since Rodicio was advanced previously, she was not part of Wednesday's discussion.

Out of 77 other candidates, eight were selected for next week's interviews.

The one who garnered the most support from the search committee was Madeline Pumariega, executive vice president and provost of Tallahassee Community College. Previously, she served as chancellor of the Florida College System, and she was both the first woman and the first Hispanic person to hold that position.

A Hialeah native, Pumariega studied at Miami Dade College herself and worked at the school for two decades, ending her tenure as president of the downtown campus.

The other semi-finalists are the following:

  • Carlos Cortez, president of San Diego Continuing Education, which is part of the San Diego Community College District
  • Gregory Fowler, commissioner and board member of the New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Joe DiSalvo, a retired Army lieutenant general and consultant
  • Junius Gonzalez, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the New York Institute of Technology
  • Kenneth Gonzalez, vice president of student and enrollment services at El Paso Community College
  • Morgan Phillips, vice chancellor for academic excellence at Pima Community College
  • Irene Rios, an administrator at SUNY Suffolk.

Earlier during the search process, some board members had expressed interest in a candidate with a nontraditional background for an academic role. Committee member Nelson Hincapie made the argument that DiSalvo fits that description.

“I think one of the things that I really appreciate in DiSalvo is the fact that he was chief of staff at Southern Command [a military facility in Doral], so he is somewhat of a local guy,” said Hincapie, president and CEO of Voices for Children Foundation.

“If the trustees wanted a nonconventional candidate, let's bring DiSalvo," Hincapie said.

Committee member Rudy Fernandez said he was looking for candidates to demonstrate “scalability,” or their readiness to run a large, complex organization like Miami Dade College.

The semi-finalists will be interviewed virtually Nov. 5 and 6, and then the committee will recommend three or four candidates to the board of trustees.

Finalists will visit the college Nov. 12 and 13, and the board is slated to choose the next president Nov. 17.

Natu Tweh is WLRN's Morning Edition Producer. He also reports on general news out of South Florida.
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