College of Charleston announces three finalists in presidential search to replace Glenn McConnell

The candidates will be invited to spend a day-and-a-half on campus

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Benson (L-R), Hsu, and Phillips are the top three candidates to be the next president of the College of Charleston - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Benson (L-R), Hsu, and Phillips are the top three candidates to be the next president of the College of Charleston
Three candidates who have applied for the top spot at the College of Charleston will be invited to the Holy City for interviews and open forums starting next week.

Michael Benson, Andrew Hsu, and Rhonda Phillips have all been selected by the school's Board of Trustees from a list of candidates that initially ran over 100 names long.

Benson has been the president of Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky., where he also teaches government, since 2013. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from Brigham Young University, a master's in nonprofit administration from Notre Dame, and a Ph.D. in modern history from Oxford, according to a brief biography posted by the university. He's currently pursuing a second master's degree at Johns Hopkins university.



Hsu is the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Toledo in Ohio, according to his bio. He has a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech and has been in academia since 1997 after 11 years working for Rolls Royce and NASA.

Phillips is a tenured professor and the inaugural dean of the Purdue University honors college, according to her bio. She's a three-time Fulbright Scholar and has written or edited 24 academic books. She got her bachelor's degree at the University of Southern Mississippi and holds master's and doctorate degrees, both also from Georgia Tech.

"These three finalists represent a wealth of academic experience, and they all impressed the trustees with their passion for and commitment to the liberal arts and sciences as well as their understanding and insight related to the fast-changing landscape of higher education," said Renee Romberger, a trustee who has been leading the search committee.

The College, along with an executive search firm hired to help identify candidates, held various listening sessions throughout the year. Students, alumni, faculty, and other stakeholders were most interested in a present and attentive leader with an open-door policy, according to interviews with Romberger and Bill Funk of R. William Funk & Associates.

Glenn McConnell led CofC from 2014-2018 - COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON PHOTO
  • College of Charleston photo
  • Glenn McConnell led CofC from 2014-2018
Repeated references to diversity are made in multiple summary documents about the "attributes, qualities and characteristics" that alumni, faculty, staff, and students would like in a future president.

The College's previous president, Glenn McConnell, was selected to lead the school despite his past support for flying the Confederate flag outside the S.C. Capitol as a state senator and previously owning a Confederate memorabilia store in North Charleston. After the Mother Emanuel killings, McConnell eventually said he supported efforts to remove the flag "as a visible statement of courtesy and good will to all those who may be offended by it." The finalists will be on campus at various times from Nov. 13 to Nov. 16, during which time they'll meet with deans, administrators, and volunteer leaders in closed interviews.

Students, faculty, and staff will have a chance to attend open forums and voice feedback in online surveys for Benson, Hsu, and Phillips.

A full schedule of interviews and open forums times can be read below. See related PDF CofCVisits.pdf

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