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Monday, June 17, 2024

UF Honors Program forms committee to seek new director

Position expected to be filled by mid-May

The UF Honors Program has officially begun a search for the replacement of former director Mark Law, who Provost Joe Glover fired in August. 

Law, who had held his position within the Honors Program since 2014, was fired to the surprise of the Honors Program community. He was notified of his termination a month before the effective date — Aug. 15. That day, he broke the news to the Honors community himself via email. 

“Unfortunately, we found his plans lackluster across the board — from admissions and recruitment to academic and student life programming,” said Mori Hosseini, UF Board of Trustees chair, during his State of the University Address in August.

Law expressed disagreement with Glover’s decision and wrote in an email to Honors students and families that the UF Board of Trustees provided the former director with no reason for its action.

Melissa Johnson, the former senior associate director of the program, has assumed the role of interim director since Law’s termination. 

An established search committee will find a permanent director by mid-May, said Angela Lindner, associate provost for undergraduate affairs and search supervisor. Each committee member confirmed their intent to participate in the search for a new director by mid-December, Lindner wrote in an email. 

All of the committee’s meetings will be open to the public  — contrary to UF’s presidential search, which was largely conducted behind closed doors until the Board of Trustees announced a sole finalist. 

However, the online presence of the search will remain muted. 

“Keeping a public site about the search process is not typical for a search at this level of position,” Lindner said. 

The committee will update members of the UF community of its finalists as the search develops, Lindner said. 

“As with all traditional searches, the search committee will announce on-campus interviews of the finalists,” Lindner said. “These too will provide a window that will be open to the public.”

Led by chair and mathematics professor Kevin Knudson, the search committee features an assortment of UF faculty members and officials. Knudson shared the names of the search committee members with The Alligator, who include:

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  • Connie Mulligan, professor of anthropology, CLAS 

  • Sarah Westen, clinical assistant professor of clinical child and pediatric psychology, PHHP

  • Ryan Good, affiliate faculty, geography and UF Water Institute, SNRE, CALS 

  • Lauren Hodges, associate professor of viola, School of Music, COTA 

  • Mary Parker, VP enrollment management and associate provost 

  • Kris Klann, assistant dean and director, student life, new student, parent & family engagement

  • TehQuin Forbes, coordinator, Honors recruitment & transitions 

  • Tina Horvath, senior director, housing & residence life

  • Jason Mastrogiovanni, assistant provost, UF Student Success

  • Matthew Fiore, assistant director of development, UF Advancement

  • Ann-Marie Derias, UF Honors Program student 

  • Gitchimber "Jojo" Gay, UF Honors Program student

  • Ian Lai, UF Honors Program student

  • Valerie Sheehe, UF Honors Program student

  • Radhika Subramanian, UF Honors Program student

  • Search Consultant – Devan Brown, talent consultant, Strategic Talent Group

The future UF Honors Program director must meet the standards outlined in the position description, now posted on the UF Human Resources website. Potential directors must possess at least 10 years of relevant experience and a doctorate degree. 

Five UF Honors students will take part in the search, each representing “various aspects of the Honors program,” Lindner said.

Of the five students on the search committee, three didn’t respond to The Alligator and two declined to comment.

Moving forward, more UF students will be able to get involved in the search, Lindner said. 

“The committee will provide opportunity for students at large to participate in the on-campus interviews,” Lindner wrote. 

With advice from Knudson and Honors staff, Lindner chose the committee members, who have met once since the committee was created.

Honors students like Kayla Booth, a 19-year-old UF anthropology sophomore, emphasized the importance of more student involvement in the committee moving forward. Students could benefit from participating in the search process, she said. 

“The director is going to be a key point in our undergraduate career,” Booth said. “It would be nice to give some input to the search.” 

Yet, some UF Honors students remain in the dark about the search committee’s existence and current progress in finding a new program director. 

Isabella Cratem, a 19-year-old UF electrical engineering sophomore in the Honors Program, noted the committee could improve on how informed it has been keeping students on the search.

“I would say they’re not doing that much of a good job there,” Cratem said. “I could not tell you what’s happening right now, which I think kind of speaks volumes.” 

Aiming to find a director by May, members of the search committee will continue to meet periodically throughout the coming months. 

The possibility of the current UF Honors interim director being a candidate for director can’t be shared at the moment, Knudson said. 

To Abigail Stelmashenko, a 19-year-old UF psychology sophomore in the Honors Program, the option of having interim director Melissa Johnson serve as a permanent director would be optimal, she said.

“She’s amazing — I really like her,” Stelmashenko said. “She goes out of her way to help her students.” 

The search committee will meet next on Jan. 27 in Tigert Hall, and the meeting is open to the public.

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Halima Attah

Halima Attah is a first-year journalism student and university reporter for The Alligator. When she’s not writing, you can probably find her thrifting on Depop or listening to her carefully curated Spotify playlists.

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