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Tuajuanda Jordan, 53, who was named Wednesday as St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s next president, said she is ready to tackle low-enrollment and financial issues the college has experienced during the last year.

“I believe I’m as prepared as I can be” to lead the college, she said Wednesday during a phone interview.

With the help of a good leadership team, she said, she hopes to get St. Mary’s College back on strong footing and is looking forward to learning about the campus’ needs and its strengths.

Jordan is currently the dean of the college of arts and sciences at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore. She plans to visit the St. Mary’s campus next week to meet with college officials and others before officially taking over as president on July 1.

The college’s board of trustees voted unanimously Saturday to appoint Jordan as the college’s president after a four-month search process.

“We were looking for someone who was a leader and could bring creative, appropriate, incremental changes to college programs” related to fundraising, enrollment, curriculum and other areas, Gail Harmon, chair of the trustees, said.

Harmon said she expects Jordan’s background in the sciences and her work experiences will help her be successful in making needed, but not drastic, changes.

“We believe she’s got the right abilities,” Harmon said.

During her visit to campus last week, Jordan told the campus community how her own experiences in college and working during the last three decades would blend with St. Mary’s College.

Her father worked as a welder during a career that included helping to build the Washington, D.C., Metro lines, she said. Her mother worked in the cafeteria at Howard University.

“Our parents were really hard working,” she said.

Jordan said she is a first-generation college student, and was able to succeed thanks to the help and encouragement of professors and others in academia.

“I didn’t even realize I was a minority and that we were not well off until I went to college,” Jordan said.

Jordan grew up in Forestville in Prince George’s County, where her parents still reside.

She is married to Eric Heatley and she has two children, Jordan Starck and Patrice Starck Darby, both 23.

Jordan said during her visit to campus last week that she felt connected to what’s called The St. Mary’s Way, which she described as a presence on campus that means people care about having a diverse community and being respectful to one another.

“It really is something that speaks to my spirit about life and living,” Jordan said.

Jordan, who does not have experience working at a public college, said there will be some adjustments for her, although the fundraising aspects will be similar to those at private universities.

She said the college will continue to have an obligation to offer lectures and other programs to the public in the surrounding community, although because of financial straits there may be some differences from how they are offered now.

“We’re just going to have to try to balance it,” she said.

Jordan taught chemistry at Xavier University in Louisiana before becoming a college administrator in 2002.

Describing herself as “fair, but absolutely direct,” Jordan said, “I like thinking about big-picture things.”

Jordan received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Fisk University and a doctorate in biochemistry from Purdue University.

Prior to her job with Lewis & Clark, Jordan served as director of the Science Education Alliance of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, where she led a collaborative effort of scientists and educators to work together to prepare college science curriculum.

Ian Newbould, who took over as interim president of St. Mary’s College since last summer after Joseph Urgo abruptly left the post, offered his support for the appointment of Jordan.

“A distinguished scientist and academic leader with a national reputation, she will advance our cause immeasurably,” Newbould said in a prepared statement. “St. Mary’s is fortunate to have attracted her.”

Jordan and two other finalists — Kim Mooney, Franklin Pierce University’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Charles Caramello, University of Maryland’s associate provost for academic affairs and dean of the graduate school, each visited the St. Mary’s campus earlier this month.

The trustees collected surveys from faculty, staff, students and others after those visits to help make their decision, Harmon said.

“The surveys showed extraordinary support” for Jordan from each group of respondents, Harmon said.

An 11-member committee made of trustees, faculty, a student and a member of the staff made presentations to the full board of trustees last Saturday before closed-door deliberations, Harmon said.

jyeatman@somdnews.com