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Presidential search set to launch

BY CARLY MATTHEW | MARCH 12, 2015 5:00 AM

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The search for the next University of Iowa president will soon be in full swing.

Jean Robillard, the UI vice president for Medical Affairs and head of the Presidential Search Committee, announced at the state Board of Regents meeting in Iowa City on Wednesday that the panel would have its first meeting on March 25.

It will be primarily an organizational meeting allowing the 21-member committee to establish a schedule. The meeting will be open to the public.

Regent President Bruce Rastetter said the committee’s first official meeting with Parker Executive Search — a firm the regents hired whose duty is to define the goals of the search, develop specifications for the presidential position, create a timeline, and be heavily involved in the interview process — will mostly likely take place in late April or early May.

“We’re more comfortable because we’ve had two successful searches with [Parker Executive Search], so we think that’s really critical that we follow a path that we’ve been successful at in the past,” Rastetter said.

The regents announced they had chosen Parker in mid-February. Its contract is set at $200,000, more than twice the amount the regents paid the same firm for its searches at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

The $200,000 does not include expenses associated with the search outside of Parker’s assistance.

But to the regents, the price shouldn’t be the focus.

“You can’t just look at the fees,” said Bob Donley, the executive director of the regents.

He said it was important to consider the difference between the contract amounts in context.

“Not all of the search firms that presented to us, I believe, are capable to doing the job,” he said.

Donley noted that Parker has worked with several other universities and colleges in the state.

“They understand Iowa; they understand the culture, and as [Rastetter] just said, have undergone two very successful searches,” he said.

Both Rastetter and Donley said the search firm was the only option that named a definite fee as opposed to one based on a percentage of the new president’s salary.

Rastetter estimated there were initially approximately 80 applicants for the ISU presidential search and about 60 for the UNI’s.

“We hope we have as many candidates as possible to sort through,” Rastetter said.

He said he expects about one dozen confidential interviews to take place in June, and then the three to four finalists will interview again in July.

But Regent Ruth Harkin expressed concern that, in the past, the firm hadn’t provided the number of finalists the regents wanted.

“One of the things in a couple of prior searches that we’ve had is the search committee or the board membership had asked the search firm to come forward with a certain number of candidates,” she said. “And I think in the last two searches, maybe more than that, really, they didn’t come up with that number of candidates.”

But Rastetter defended the firm, saying candidates chose to drop out because they did not want to make their names public for fear or losing their jobs and leadership positions elsewhere.

After the committee choses the finalists, Rastetter said, the goal is to bring them to campus during the first week of the fall session.

“We need to bring the candidates to campus when campus returns in the fall and the community is here for those public town-hall meetings that each of the finalists will have,” he said.


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