Downtown public forum speakers push for tech-savy UCF president

Members of the UCF Presidential Search Committee await speakers at the downtown public forum. UCF Presidential Search Listening Session, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo by Layla Ferris.

The UCF community asked the next president be technology literate Thursday morning during a UCF Presidential Search Listening Session at UCF’s Center for Emerging Media.

Orlando resident Heather Traynham, 44, was only one of the several participants who urged the Presidential Search Committee to consider candidates who are committed to education and technology during the session.

“I have a particular interest in somebody that is interested in fostering the OCPS K-12 partnerships and increasing career pathways in STEM, particularly in cybersecurity and emerging technologies,” Traynham said.

Traynham has lived in Orlando for more than 30 years and works with Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) to help connect resources to ensure student success.

Heather Traynham speaks at the third Presidential Search Listening Session in downtown Orlando. UCF Presidential Search Listening Session, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo by Layla Ferris.

With job availability in the tech sector, Traynham said technology is a key area to focus on.

Traynham said she also wants a president who cares about children, focuses on teaching — primarily innovative recruiting practices for teachers — and creating increased career pathways for students in the OCPS system.

“I think those pathways and those opportunities have been created; I think there are different areas that we can focus on and carry some of those things further to make a bigger impact,” she said.

Lyman Brodie, executive associate dean for the College of Arts and Humanities, said it’s important to consider the effect presidential candidates could have on their respective communities.

“Probably the most important thing on any agenda that I would actually recommend would be looking for someone who has a very galvanizing effect on this community, because I think in the history of higher education, there’s no one that’s been more galvanizing than John Hitt,” Brodie said.

Lyman Brodie speaks at the third Presidential Search Listening Session in downtown Orlando. UCF Presidential Search Listening Session, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo by Layla Ferris.

The theme of technology was continued as J.T. Shim stepped up to the microphone.

“This is not a secret to any of us, that cyberwar is a real thing, and that’s one of the challenges our society faces,” said Shim, a UCF alumnus who graduated in 2008 with a P.h.D in Mastering Information Systems.

Shim, like Traynham, said he would like to see an emphasis on cybersecurity. He said training and prowess in this field would not only increase the safety of data at UCF, but fill empty job positions.

Although Shim said he isn’t dissatisfied with UCF President John C. Hitt’s technological proficiency, he said the incoming president’s skill set should match or surpass Hitt’s.

“We definitely have to have a president, male or female, who is tech-savy, who not necessarily utilizes it but at least understands and knows how to manage it,” Shim said.

The audience included three speakers and a few onlookers such as UCF Board of Trustee member John Lord.

Lord, 71, said he’s the newest addition to the BOT and has been there for about six months. Although he’s not involved in the presidential selection process, the BOT will participate in the approval process once a candidate has been chosen.

Lord said he agreed with all of the statements made during the listening session.

UCF student Maia Doughtie, 21, stressed the importance of having presidential candidates who are environmentally conscious, a topic that was also touched on at the second UCF Presidential Search Listening Session.

“As a university and community of over 60,000, we have the ability to be a detriment to our environment or be one of the leaders in innovative sustainability methods, so I think that’s extremely important for one of our candidates,” Doughtie said.

Presidential Search Committee Chairman David Walsh said of all the characteristics the next president should have, openness and integrity are some of the most important to him.

“We need to reproduce his [Hitt’s] integrity in the next candidate,” Walsh said.

The listening sessions serve as an outlet for the public to voice what qualities the next president should possess and bring attention to concerns or issues the community feels the president should focus on.

Seven of the 15 Presidential Search Committee members attended the listening session, although committee member Falecia Williams joined the session 20 minutes late.

The forum, the third of four listening sessions, was hosted at UCF’s Center for Emerging Media in downtown Orlando. Another listening session was held Thursday evening at the College of Medicine in Lake Nona. The next UCF Presidential Search Committee meeting will be held on Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. in the UCF Global building on UCF’s main campus.