College of DuPage presidential finalist David Sam knows the controversies that have surrounded COD might have caused some people to lose trust in the college.
If he is chosen president, Sam said he intends to win back that trust.
"There is nothing more important than earning the trust of the community back," Sam told those attending a presidential finalist forum April 20.
He is one of three candidates vying for the position. The college's Board of Trustees voted 4-1 in October 2015 to fire embattled President Robert Breuder. Joseph Collins has been serving as acting interim president.
Other candidates for president include Barbara Kavalier, district president of Navarro College in Texas, and Ann Rondeau, a consultant and partner with IBM Watson Group and a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral. Candidate forums were held for them earlier in the week.
Sam, a native of Ghana, West Africa, has served as Elgin Community College president since 2007. He was an assistant professor and coordinator of international studies at COD from 1988 to 1990.
When talking about his vision for the college, Sam said he would need input from COD students, faculty and staff before he could fully answer that question.
"How can I have a vision for this college without input?" Sam asked. "That is why I do not have a complete vision."
Sam also was asked about how he would address COD being placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission. In December 2015, the commission put the college on probation for two years after expressing concerns about its integrity and governance.
"That is unacceptable," Sam said. "College of DuPage stands for college of distinction. We have to change our culture. It is the environment."
Sam also was asked what steps he would take to improve the college's reputation. In order for that to happen, he said the college first needs to reach out to the community.
"We have to engage the community and hear what they are saying," Sam said. "There is healing that we need to do... Gradually, we will be able to rebuild the trust that has been eroded."
Those who attended the candidate forums have the chance to rank them at cod.edu/presidential_search/forum_feedback_ranking.aspx. COD trustees met with each candidate in closed sessions following the candidate forums.