By ROBBIE WARD

Daily Journal Starkville Bureau

STARKVILLE - Any of the six candidates forwarded to the College Board's Mississippi State University Search Committee by the university's advisory committee would likely make a "strong president," says a member of the campus committee and frequent critic of the process.

Mark Goodman, MSU communications professor and Faculty Senate president, said the campus committee selected candidates with experience and successful track records.

"Most people in the group thought we had 10 or 12 strong candidates," said Goodman. "I believe any one of the six people selected based on the information we had could make a very strong president."

The process to replace MSU President Charles Lee began in November when he announced his intentions to retire after a new president is named. Higher education commissioner Tom Meredith has said he hopes a choice will be announced in early April.

From 50 to six

The 24-member campus committee sorted through about 50 candidates Tuesday before narrowing its list to six. About 20 of the 50 had been nominated, while about 10 responded to advertisements for the job. A consultant helping with the search added names.

When the search was announced, Meredith said no finalists would be made public - only the candidate selected president. However, after criticisms of the secrecy, Meredith and the College Board agreed to allow five members of the MSU committee to observe while board members discussed the finalists.

The College Board's search committee - chairman Ed Blakeslee, Robin Robinson, D.E. Magee, Bettye Neely, Roy Estess and Scott Ross - will meet March 6 and 16 to discuss candidates.

College Board spokeswoman Annie Mitchell said no location for the meetings has been announced but sessions will be closed. The College Board will likely begin interviewing candidates in late March, Mitchell said.

Any new candidates added by the search consultant will be discussed during the March committee meetings.

Allowing MSU advisory committee members to listen during the College Board's search process helps preserve integrity of the search, even if it's not public, Goodman said. He also said the high quality of the six candidates selected Tuesday would make selecting an outside candidate hard to justify.

"If a seventh candidate flew in from the outside and was named president, somebody would have a lot of explaining to do," Goodman said.

After the College Board selects a "preferred" candidate, he or she will make a public visit to MSU's campus before being selected the next president.

These Mississippi State University Presidential Search Advisory Committee members will observe College Board discussions about the candidates for MSU's next president:

- Ruth Prescott, advisory committee chairwoman and executive assistant to MSU President Charles Lee

- Jon David Cole, MSU Student Association president

- Bill Kibler, MSU vice president for student affairs

- Linda Cornelious, MSU professor of instructional systems and work force development

- Roderick Moore, president of the MSU Foundation

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