Mesa Community College has narrowed the search for its next president to Shouan Pan, a college executive with 20 years of experience and Arizona ties.
The college has not officially hired Pan, 49, provost at Broward Community College’s south campus near Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
But Rufus Glasper, chancellor of the Maricopa County Community College District, announced Friday he will lead a delegation to Broward to speak with Pan’s colleagues to learn more about their top applicant.
“They want to interact with people to get a sense of how I am perceived in my local community,” Pan said.
Glasper does not plan to visit any of the other four finalists, said Chris Chesrown, a district spokeswoman.
If the visit goes well, Glasper will close what has become a protracted search for the person to lead MCCCD’s largest college. With more than 20,000 students and three campuses, MCC’s enrollment and physical plant are greater than many universities.
But the next president will head a college recovering from scandals over fraud cases and questionable international travel. MCC enrollment has also declined each of the past three years.
Glasper fired Larry Christiansen, MCC’s president for 19 years, in February after the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office named Christiansen a target in a criminal fraud investigation.
The college finished a quick search process in May — Pan was one of three finalists then — but Glasper scrapped it amid concerns the finalists were not good fits for MCC.
Pan said he didn’t take offense because of the turmoil in Mesa.
Replacing a longtime president “invariably will create some anxiety for the institution,” he said.
There aren’t the same concerns this time. Chesrown said students, faculty and district officials have endorsed Pan.
Pan grew up poor in China, ostracized after the government labeled his father an anti-communist.
Regardless, Pan went on to teach international education at Hefei Polytechnic University before immigrating to the United States in 1986.
In 1992, he moved to Coolidge to become residence life director at Central Arizona College. He spent a year teaching educational psychology and recruiting students at Northern Arizona University and then took his first job as an administrator in 1995 at the Community College of Philadelphia.
Pan said he stayed in community colleges because they often help immigrants acclimate and prepare for work in this country.
MCC’s students are becoming more diverse and Pan said the college does great things for disadvantaged students.
“For me, this is still a very strong institution with a lot of great things taking place,” Pan said. “In community college circles, we know Maricopa is a leading district in the nation.”
Glasper has said he intends to finish the hiring process by year’s end.
The Broward visit might finalize Pan’s selection, but could also prompt Glasper to reconsider.
Such trips, called “site visits,” are not common in higher education, Pan said, but he has heard of colleges using them before.
The Maricopa district decides whether to visit a candidate’s workplace on a case-by-case basis. “No process is ever the same,” Chesrown said. “It is never set in stone if there will be a site visit, or how many site visits there might be.”