New president announcement draws mixed reaction from campus


Hollie David

Dr. Todd Pfannestiel shaking hands with current President Casamento while being introduced as the new University president effective next semester.

Isabella Hudziak, Editor in Chief

After more than five months of a confidential presidential search, Utica University announced Todd Pfannestiel as the upcoming tenth president of the university on Monday, Feb. 27.

While the reactions on campus have been mixed, some said Pfannestiel’s academic background and experience will benefit the university. 

In 2018, Utica welcomed Pfannenstiel onto campus as the new provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. He has worked closely with President Laura Casamento ever since, most recently on the academic portfolio review that finished in late February.

Arlene Lundquist, professor of psychology, said that she is happy that the final selection is a person who has experience as a faculty member, but the overall results of the search are disappointing.

“I am, however, extremely disappointed that the results of this confidential search, a process intended to broaden the scope of candidates to create a more diverse applicant pool, resulted in a selection that doesn’t appear to reflect this goal,” Lundquist said. “I find it difficult to believe that there were no worthy women or candidates of color capable of leading this institution.”

Bernard Hyman, professor of practice – economic crime management, said he is looking forward to working with Pfannestiel and seeing how he addresses the challenges faced by the university.

“Like many other institutions of higher education, Utica University is facing a myriad of challenges now and in the foreseeable future,” Hyman said. “Overcoming those challenges will require dynamic leadership and a spirit of innovation.”

According to Hyman, one such challenge the new president will face is healing the fractured relationships that emerged following the academic portfolio review decisions and subsequent protests from faculty members. The faculty stood in opposition to some administrative decisions made by the outgoing administration. 

“Make no mistake, it is out of love and caring for the future of the institution and the concept of shared governance needed to keep us moving forward together.  From time to time, we will struggle with inner conflict,” Hyman said. “Growth requires pain from time to time.  During those times, the leadership acumen of our new President will be tested and he will be successful so long as he continues to embrace a spirit of innovative learning here at Utica.”

For students like Colby Kusinitz, the Student Government Association president and cybersecurity major, choosing “Dr. Todd” represents an opportunity for positive growth and innovation at Utica.

“Personally, I think it speaks volumes when we call someone Doctor First Name. Additionally, his frequent presence at school athletic events and his willingness to speak at SGA meetings on short notice is a clear indication of his strong dedication to the student body,” Kusinitz said. “However, I am curious to see how Dr. Todd balances the demands of other constituency groups when we have conflicting interests.”

Sara Kuiken, a senior health studies OT and healthcare management major, echoes Kusinitz’s sentiment and excitement.

“I am very excited for this next chapter in Utica‘s history,” Kuiken said. “Dr. Todd has expressed many times his passion for the students and shown his willingness to engage with students. This makes me hopeful that his time as president will be successful and student-focused.”

Kathi Jabe, a biochemistry/human rights advocacy major who plans to run for SGA president in the upcoming election, said she hopes that the opportunity for student voices to be heard and considered will be a key part of Pfannestiel’s presidential appointment.

“In my opinion, transparency is an essential component of creating an inclusive and supportive campus community,” Jabe said. “I hope that Dr. Todd shares this belief and will prioritize fostering an environment where every student feels heard and valued. I look forward to seeing how Dr. Todd will help create a dynamic campus community that supports the diverse needs of our student body.”