During the June 15 Fairmont State University Board of Governors meeting, the board voted to approve Dr. Michael Davis’s presidential contract. Following the Board’s approval of the contract, it will be sent to the Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) for final approval. Davis is set to begin his term as President on July 1.
“The Board would like to thank Dr. Phillips for all the work she has done over the last twelve months while serving as interim President, and we look forward to Dr. Davis taking on the role of President in July,” said Board Chairman Rusty Hutson. “We have the utmost confidence in Dr. Davis and believe his background in academia and strong sense of community and relationship building will properly serve this university.”
Dr. Dianna Phillips served as the Interim President of Fairmont State University during the Presidential search and has spent the last year working to make the transition to new leadership as efficient as possible for the entire campus.
“Dr. Davis and I have had regular communication and together have begun putting together a transition plan for him that will be ready to launch once he officially takes on the position of President,” said Phillips. “I want to thank the Board, my Executive Leadership Team, the Senior Leaders at Fairmont State University, and the Fairmont State Foundation. It has been my pleasure to serve as the Interim President.”
The final approval of the contract will conclude the presidential search, which began in September 2022. The search was aided by search firm Buffkin Baker and a committee comprised of individuals from the campus and surrounding communities. These members included members of the board, students, faculty, staff, and local community and business stakeholders. The Presidential search committee was tri-chaired by board members Jennifer Kinty and Kevin Rogers, and Fairmont State University Faculty Senate President, Charles Shields.
Additional committee representatives included Rusty Hutson (BOG chairman), Raymond Alvarez (faculty), Melissa Eades (faculty), Holly Fluharty (staff), Donna Trickett (staff), Ally Quigley (student), Mercedes Goff (student), Kevin Wilfong (Fairmont State Foundation), Rae Dyer (Fairmont State Foundation), Porter Stiles (Fairmont State Alumni Association), Kris Cinalli (local government representative) and Tina Shaw (local business representative).
After rigorously vetting each applicant, off-campus interviews were held with 12 presidential candidates in April. On April 12 Davis was announced as a finalist, along with Rocco Fucillo, J.D., L.L.M., William Phillips, and Rosemary Thomas, Ed.D. On May 10 the Board announced their decision to name Davis as the President-elect.
Davis comes to Fairmont State from James Madison University (JMU) where he served as the Chief of Staff. In this role, he manages JMU’s presidential priorities and directs matters of policy and institutional importance, including strategic planning, institutional research, and accreditation. His executive leadership grew from his commitment to students.
Prior to his current role, Davis served as a faculty member and Director of Debate in JMU’s School of Communication Studies. With debate coaching experience spanning more than 25 years, Dr. Davis leveraged alumni and external grant support to elevate JMU’s Madison Debate Society to one of national renown. Dr. Davis previously taught communication studies and coached debate at Georgia State University, University of Georgia, University of Rochester, University of Louisville, Mercer University, and Syracuse University.
As a first-generation undergraduate student, Davis learned early the importance of academic mentors and campus support. He strives to address the holistic needs of today’s diverse students while reducing barriers. His approach to leadership is rooted in his experience in civil discourse, deliberation, and debate—an experience that instilled in him the value of welcoming diverse opinions.
Davis’ expertise in leading curricular innovation and crafting international student and faculty opportunities will be used well at Fairmont State. In his international programming efforts and travels abroad while at JMU, Dr. Davis conducted programming with universities and government agencies in Rwanda and Kosovo. He secured formal partnerships offering high-impact opportunities that facilitate compelling enrollment and programmatic co-curricular prospects for students and faculty alike.
While at JMU, Davis cultivated productive relationships with city and county officials, administrators at neighboring institutions, business leaders, elected officials, and statewide commissions and task forces. His community relations experience expands campus boundaries for the symbiotic benefit of both campus and community. In his spare time, his community involvement includes volunteer leadership with the United Way of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County, Any Given Child Shenandoah Valley, On The Road Collaborative, Harrisonburg Education Foundation, Harrisonburg Little League Association, and Girl Scout Troop 82.
Davis is and will always be a communication studies scholar. As such, he relishes the opportunity to translate his academic experience in public discourse to support student success unequivocally. Mike Davis earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Communication Studies and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Georgia. He also holds a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University. His academic research interests center on women in the Civil Rights Movement, debate pedagogy, presidential rhetoric, and argumentation and advocacy.
In addition to the vote to approve Davis’s contract, the Board approved a requested Intent to Plan for a Master of Science in Environmental Science through the College of Science and Technology, presented by Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Timothy Oxley.
Vice President of Student Success Ken Fettig also provided updates on current enrollment and housing occupancy numbers for the Fall 2023 semester. Both enrollment and housing occupancy rates are trending upward, resulting in a positive outlook for the 2023-2024 academic year.