After Nearly Two-Year Search, Miami Dade College Board Selects Madeline Pumariega As Next President
Pumariega beat out three other finalists, including the college's current provost.
The Miami Dade College board of trustees unanimously selected Madeline Pumariega as the institution’s next president Tuesday, following a nearly two-year search.
A Hialeah native, Pumariega studied at the college herself and worked there for two decades, ending her initial tenure as president of the downtown campus.
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She is also the former chancellor of the Florida College System and the current executive vice president and provost of Tallahassee Community College.
“As democracy’s college, we are laboring to ensure that every student has a path to the American dream,” Pumariega said Tuesday morning during her final interview at the college’s downtown campus. “We're going to have to make tough decisions so that we help families out of this, and we help our community out of the COVID environment.”
Following interviews with the four finalists, the board quickly — and with little discussion — voted to appoint Pumariega. She beat out the college’s current provost, Lenore Rodicio, who was recommended both by former president Eduardo Padrón and interim president Rolando Montoya, who has served since Padrón retired in August 2019.
Rodicio was the only finalist retained from an earlier iteration of the search, which first began early last year and stalled after a new majority of board members appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed dissatisfaction with the pool of candidates — causing faculty union leaders to cry politics.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic sent the second search on a months-long hiatus. The search committee and the board of trustees resumed their deliberations and conducted interviews over the last few weeks.
Board chair Michael Bileca, a former Republican state lawmaker, referenced the bumpy road to Tuesday's selection in remarks to the college administrators.
“There was maybe a little more noise during some of these a little while ago, and none of you got caught up in it. You just stayed focused and served our students,” Bileca said Tuesday.
“We have really tried to conduct this in a transparent way, in a focused way, and in an expeditious way, although this prolonged out more than we ever expected,” he said.
Bernie Navarro, a current board member and former chair who helped lead the initial unsuccessful search, said Tuesday’s decision would help the college move forward.
“It’s been 19 or 20 months” since the search process first began, said Navarro. “It is time to heal. It’s time for the faculty to heal. … It’s time to make sure we put the students first and the institution first.”
The other finalists were Gregory Fowler, president of Southern New Hampshire University’s global campus and a commissioner for the New England Commission of Higher Education; and Morgan Phillips, vice chancellor for academic excellence at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz.
Bileca said the board would have been comfortable with any of the finalists, but Pumariega’s experience working with state lawmakers in Tallahassee in her previous position as chancellor of the Florida College System made her the right person to lead the college through the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All the candidates were vetted, were solid and had strengths, had a lot of strengths,” said Bileca following the vote. “However, Miss Pumariega was the right choice for us now.”
After the board selected Pumariega, she was invited back into the meeting and congratulated with applause as she entered the room.
“God is great, and America is great, because only [here] could a daughter of Cuban immigrants dream today to be back at her alma mater, where she started as a basketball player, to lead Miami Dade College,” Pumariega said following her appointment.
“We are the college of opportunity and hope,” she said. “People come to us because they want a chance, a chance to achieve that American dream through education.
"We know that an educated society is a civically engaged society, and it is what preserves democracy. And I take that with the seriousness of the position.”