Rhode Island College has been in the search for a President since 2022 and an official replacement will be named this year. The former presidency of Frank D. Sánchez left organizations in plunder and students questioning the college’s fate. Dr. Jack R. Warner stepped up as interim president in July 2022 to keep the college afloat and stable. Now, Warner is up against two other nominations for the job.
The first nomination is Dean Libutti, the current Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success at University of Rhode Island. The second nominee is Jeffrey Osborn, the former Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at The College of New Jersey. Neither of these candidates have a connection to RIC prior to applying for the job. All three candidates hold the requirements to be a college president and possess experience to provide them the needed skills. But can any of these candidates understand the minds of RIC students?
RIC students have reported doubts in the job description of the college president rather than in any specific nominee. However, the majority wonder if any of the candidates know “the true struggle of a state college student” and if the new president will have the ability to fix problems with advising, enrollment, budgeting, student engagement, etc.
Interim President Jack Warner has demonstrated his skills since the Sánchez fallout thus becoming the incumbent. Warner is notable for teaching higher education at Johnson & Wales University, advising for a consulting firm known as the Education Strategy Group, leading the South Dakota Board of Regents and heading up the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education.
Dr. Dean Libutti initiated a "re-enrollment" program at URI for students who paused their education during the pandemic and hadn't yet returned. Libutti was also involved with the design and implementation of various student opportunities such as URI’s Grand Challenge Program, Finish What You Started, Online Faculty Fellows, 15 to Finish, Common Reading Program, URI’s virtual tour, and the new Winter J Term. URI writes of Libutti “Over the past 20 years, Dr. Libutti has worked in a variety of areas within higher education administration including undergraduate and graduate admission, new student programs, student affairs, career development and experiential education, service learning, financial aid, academic advising and enrollment management.” Prior to URI, Libutti served as Assistant to the Vice President of Student Life and Academic Development at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He shows interest and passion for higher education since he began at Villanova University in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
Dr. Jeffrey Osborn served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at The College of New Jersey from 2020 to 2024. Before this, he served as dean for the TCNJ School of Science for 14 years. Osborn has also served as professor of biology at TCNJ since 2006. The TCNJ biography cites Osborn as “an administrator-teacher-scholar, working in biological, interdisciplinary, and higher education areas.” Osborn has enhanced TCNJ’s national standing and strategic position within higher education by taking innovative approaches to reevaluate TCNJ’s mission and aspirations.
All three nominations have an algorithm to their experience that makes them uniquely different from one another, but they contain the same drive and motivation to do the best by each and every student. These nominees are dedicated to the betterment of higher education and taking Rhode Island College to a new forefront.