One of these four candidates may be named president of Saint Paul College

Saint Paul College on February 11, 2021 announced four finalists for president of the college, they are left to right: Sunem Beaton-Garcia; Felicia Ganther; Deidra Peaslee; and Tia Robinson-Cooper. Photo: Saint Paul College

Saint Paul College, located a few hundred feet from the Minnesota State Capitol, on Thursday announced an all women cast of finalists for consideration as the college’s next president. One of the four finalists is the current interim president, Deidra Peaslee.

Students of color comprise 65% of the student body.

The college has been without a president since May 2019 when Rassoul Dastmozd resigned after faculty staged a protest against his leadership style of “fear and intimidation.” Saint Paul College is part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system which includes all the state universities and community colleges.

Adenuga Atewologun, president of Riverland Community College chaired the search advisory committee that recommended the four finalists. The search committee included students, faculty, staff, and community leaders.

The four finalists are Sunem Beaton-Garcia, Felicia Ganther, Deidra Peaslee, and Tia Robinson-Cooper.

Chancellor Devinder Malhotra who heads the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will present the names of the four finalists to the system’s board of trustees at its March 17 meeting. The new present will be expected to start on July 1, 2021.

One of the challenges facing the new president is the probation that the college is under. The Higher Learning Commission placed the college under what is called “Accredited – On Probation” status on July 11, 2019, just two months after Dastmozd’s resignation. The probation was to last two years and is to end on July 11, 2021, shortly after the new president takes over. The commission’s reason for placing the college under probation included “high staff turnover, inadequate record keeping and underqualified instructors.”

The four finalists

Sunem Beaton-Garcia currently serves Broward College (FL) as president, North Campus and vice provost of academic services and interim president, South Campus, and vice provost of academic resources. Since 2009 she has served Broward College in several capacities, including the interim president, Central Campus and vice provost of teaching excellence and learning; dean of libraries and Academic Success Centers; associate dean, public services; senior instructional designer; and tenured faculty. She continues to adjunct for Broward College’s Education Pathway and served on the faculty of Saint Thomas University (FL) from 2008 to 2009. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix, a master’s from the University of South Florida, and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University (FL). She will conduct a virtual campus visit on Feb. 17.

Felicia Ganther has served the Maricopa County Community College District as associate vice chancellor and chief student affairs officer since 2012. Previously, she served the College of Lake County (IL) as the executive director of student life from 2006 to 2012; and director of the Office of Student Activities from 2000 to 2006. She has served as an adjunct faculty for Northern Arizona University, Webster State University (UT), College of Lake County (IL), and at Maricopa. She holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s from Norfolk State University, a juris doctor from the University of Illinois-Chicago John Marshall Law School, and a doctorate from Arizona State University. She will conduct a virtual campus visit on Feb. 17.

Deidra Peaslee has served as interim president of Saint Paul College since 2019. Previously, she served Anoka-Ramsey Community College as vice president of academic and student affairs from 2011 to 2019 and as Dean of Educational Services from 2002 to 2011; and DePaul University from 1997 to 2002 as assistant dean and director, and director of the international MBA. She served on the faculty of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota since 2019. She holds a bachelor’s degree from South Dakota State University, a master’s from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and a doctorate from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She will conduct a virtual campus visit on Feb. 18.

Tia Robinson-Cooper has served Inver Hills Community College since 2018 as provost and vice president of academic affairs. Previously, she served East Central College (MO) from 2016 to 2018 as vice president for academic affairs; Olive Harvey College as dean of instruction from 2013 to 2015; Northwestern College (IL) as dean of academic affairs from 2008 to 2013; and American InterContinental University (IL) as Dean of Instruction from 2004 to 2006. She holds an associate’s degree from Kishwaukee College (IL), a bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University, two masters’ degrees from National Louis University, and a doctorate from Northern Illinois University. She will conduct a virtual campus visit on Feb. 18.

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