Hastings College announced Dr. Travis Feezell as the candidate selected by the Board of Trustees to fill the position of president after Don Jackson’s retirement in May. Feezell, currently Provost at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, is scheduled to formally begin his term as the 17th president of Hastings College on June 1, 2017.
“I think the campus would agree that he [Feezell] was head and shoulders above the other candidates we brought to campus for analysis,” said Board of Trustees and Presidential Search Committee Chair Glen Moss. “I’m very comfortable with his appointment and ability and skills set to take over.”
Feezell has worked at four liberal arts colleges prior to Hastings, and several times throughout the application process he noted that he is “deeply attracted to residential liberal arts colleges.” His passion for liberal arts institutions combined with what he describes as “a great place, great tradition and great history, all at a moment where a president can be the steward of the next version of Hastings” made the opportunity for presidency at Hastings College stand out among other employment opportunities.
“Other institutions have called me to apply for presidency, and I said no. Part of that isn’t that I can’t do the work, but it’s not being aligned or having a fit with the institution,” Feezell said. “Hastings was very clear that there was a fit.”
Upon receiving the news that the Board of Trustees had appointed him as the next president of Hastings College, Feezell said he experienced a series of emotions, including excitement, gratitude and humility.
“It’s all of those emotions and reactions wrapped up into one. This is the [position] I was so attached to, and I really was so grateful and excited,” Feezell said.
Feezell has previous ties to Hastings College, as his mother was a faculty member at HC, and his brother and sister-in-law both attended the college. These connections increase his institutional knowledge, making him a good fit for the college, said Moss.
Moss also noted that Feezell’s Midwestern background as a native to Omaha, Nebraska, will help him better understand the campus community he will be working closely with as president.
Feezell will help shape the future of Hastings College, an aspect of the job he says he is most excited about. As a part of his responsibilities, he will guide the college through the completion of the prioritization process started at the beginning of this year.
“The biggest thing that he’s said is that he wants to be a part of the prioritization conversation so when he shows up he can kind of take ownership for it,” said Ethan Carpenter, SA president and student representative on the Presidential Search Committee.
Already, Feezell has been evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the college. For him, the people at the college are one of its strongest aspects.
“That may sound quite bland, but while I was on campus I got to know people, and they were immensely talented, immensely skilled and immensely connected to the college,” Feezell said.
He hopes to play on this strength by “putting people into positions where they can be as effective and successful as possible.”
As for weaknesses, Feezell said that Hastings College faces challenges shared by other similar institutions. One such challenge is the national conversation questioning the value of a private liberal arts education, he said.
“I think the way to address that is to be powerful in telling the story of Hastings College and why a residential liberal arts education is important,” Feezell said.
Feezell’s immediate plans are to acclimate himself with the institution so as to “learn Hastings College,” familiarize himself with the school’s “personality” and start an ongoing discussion about the future of HC. This will likely involve many informal conversations with students, faculty, staff and administration, he said.
The Board’s appointment of Feezell to the presidency was the culmination of a semester-long search that began earlier this summer following Jackson’s announcement on his intentions to retire at the end of the 2016-17 academic school year. The Board organized a five-member Presidential Search Committee — Moss, Carpenter, Hall Ditmer, Kim Dinsdale and Barbara Sunderman — to oversee the search process.
The Presidential Search Committee received 56 applicants total, narrowing down the applicant pool to the four strongest candidates. Each of these four candidates visited Hastings College for two days during the first half of November, and feedback from the campus community was gathered via online surveys.
“He just kind of fit in with everybody and was able to connect to anyone he talked to…just seeing those types of connections and then reading the surveys that all reflected that really made it pretty simple for us to know who our guy was,” Carpenter said.
Feezell will visit campus again in late January to further familiarize himself with Hastings College, as well as attend the Board of Trustees meeting. He plans to make frequent visits to HC before formally stepping into his position as president in June.