Search committee determines criteria for president

BY CARLY MATTHEW | MAY 11, 2015 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa Presidential Search Committee held its second meeting on May 8 to discuss position qualifications, the search process, and privacy for candidates.

“There’s a lot of untapped potential at this campus, and we can really go to a new level,” UI Faculty Senate President Alexandra Thomas said.

The committee reviewed the president’s position description. It will be used for advertising purposes and includes a range of “preferred” rather than required qualifications and skills.

At the top of the list were communication skills — namely, someone who would advocate what the UI does for the state and the country.

“We want to take that academic mission to that next level in terms of teaching and research — someone who really understands faculty and faculty work and who is able to articulate the value of that work broadly to all constituencies,” UI Faculty Senate President-Elect Christina Bohannan said.

Other skills listed in the three-page position description were interacting well with officials, governmental bodies, and the media while promoting the UI’s vision and addressing challenges.
Committee members had a series of meetings with the leadership of the UI’s various colleges to determine what qualities they want in a president.

“They want to reaffirm the importance of research, scholarship, and creative work,” UI Vice President for Medical Affairs and search-panel head Jean Robillard said.

He is set to become the UI interim president after President Sally Mason retires on July 31.

“Not only did we want someone to articulate a vision but also to refine a sense of our identity,” said Lena Hill, a UI associate professor of English and African American studies. “I think people felt that was lacking.”

Others were concerned about the new president’s ability to address campus crises.

“At the end of the day, if there’s a crisis on campus, it’s the president who’s out there having to manage these,” Tippie College of Business Dean Sarah Fisher Gardial said. “You don’t see presidents falling away because of academic issues.”

Additional preferred qualifications listed in the position description included a doctorate or terminal degree, ability to lead an academic research school and medical center, and a commitment to academics.

“They’re looking for someone who’s sensitive to and has a deep understanding of the challenges facing universities today and they’re myriad,” journalism Professor Gigi Durham said. “They range from financial, fiscal issues to campus sexual assault to all sorts of other things.”

The committee approved the description May 8 as recommended by Parker Executive Search CEO Laurie Wilder. Then, the panel could begin advertising the position in publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, Forbes, and the New York Times.

The state Board of Regents contracted Atlanta-based Parker to assist in the search process for around $200,000.

“It’s not a huge market of potential candidates,” Wilder said. “It’s always a competitive market, so you’ve got to be aggressive.”

She said the UI’s biggest competition is the University of Washington presidential search; Parker is not involved in that search.

The committee discussed and voted to approve a confidentiality policy for candidates, also recommended by Parker.

Communication about candidates will take place either over the phone or on a secure website managed by Parker.

Wilder said privacy and making the search timeline clear were some of the best ways to keep candidates from leaving the process, because most of them will be happily employed at their own institutions.

She said salary, compensation, and relocation would be some of their first conversations with the candidates so the committee doesn’t select someone it can’t bring to the UI.

“We want to know they’re committed and will take the job if they’re selected,” Regent President Bruce Rastetter said.

Only about four or five candidates, a number requested by the state Board of Regents, will be made public around the week of Aug. 31.

The regents plan to interview the final candidates on campus Sept. 5.

Tentative dates for the UI presidential search

• May: position advertisement placed in venues such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, Women in Higher Education, The Economist, and the New York Times

• May-August: search committee and Parker Executive Search will identify qualified candidates

• Late May: first search update will be provided to the committee, committee will gain access to written updates through Parker’s secure website

• Late June: (conference call) second search update, candidate status log posted to secure website

• Late July: third search update

• Aug. 3: search committee has access to all candidate materials

• Aug. 11: search committee meets to discuss candidates and choose eight for initial interviews

• Aug. 20 and 21: search committee meets to conduct around eight initial candidate interviews

• Aug. 21: search committee selects final candidates for on-campus interviews

• Week of Aug. 31: final candidates scheduled for on-campus interviews, Parker will conduct background checks and check references

• Sept. 5: state Board of Regents interviews finalists at the UI

• Early September: offer extended to final candidate
Source: Parker Executive Search

Position description for the next UI president

Preferred qualifications

Education and experience:

Doctorate or terminal degree, administrative experience demonstrating the ability to lead a complex academic research institution and medical center

Values and principals:
A commitment to development of faculty, staff, and students, and a proven track record of inspiring people and originations through principled leadership
A commitment to the institution’s academic quality and to the role of scholarship, research, and creative works in the mission of the university
A commitment to the student-centered mission of the university and an understanding of undergraduate, graduate, and professional student interests
A commitment to academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance and an understanding of their importance to sustaining the quality of the university
A commitment to equal opportunity and access and to the important role that diversity must play in education institutions
A commitment to student safety and welfare and a sensitivity to issues related to campus culture
A commitment to and understanding of the value of a strong Division I intercollegiate athletic program

Excellent communication skills
Interpersonal skills to interact effectively with the various constituencies of the university, alumni, foundation, and the community at large
Interpersonal skills to interact effectively with elected officials, governmental bodies, and the Board of Regents
Ability to hire and build an effective administrative team
Ability to foster an innovative environment that attracts high-quality faculty, students, and staff by stimulating creativity, research, teaching, and learning
Ability to identify opportunities and to convert challenges into innovative solutions and programs that will advance the future of the institution
Ability to promote a shared vision to address challenges and create opportunities, especially in the areas of student recruitment, research support, finances, and improvements to facilities and technology
Ability to raise funds from private, state, and national sources and to articulate to external audiences the value of supporting the university
Strong skills in strategic planning and fiscal planning and management

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