Kent State prepares for two new two new VPs

Photo courtesy of Kent State University.

Marissa Barnhart

A search committee of faculty, administrators and Kent State community members have decided on finalists for the university’s next leader of fundraising efforts.

Two candidates will visit campus to be interviewed for the vice president of institutional advancement position, a member of the president’s cabinet who is the head of the alumni relations and fundraising for the university.  

The search committee and its chair, Athletic Director Joel Nielsen, are responsible for selecting the new VP and have chosen Stephen Sokany, interim vice president of Institutional Advancement at Kent State, and James Thomas, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations at Western Michigan University, as the top two candidates for the position.

Sokany said he thinks the ideal candidate will have strong interpersonal skills, an ability to create and implement a strategic plan and have a track record of fundraising. He said it’s equally important for the vice president to have a passion for Kent State and higher education. Sokany believes he is the most qualified person for the position.

“Having worked at Kent State for nearly 22 years, I have been part of the evolution and development of Kent State’s advancement program,” Sokany said. “I have definite ideas for taking this program to the next level and one that is viewed as best practice.”

Thomas was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Interviews for each candidate will take place on campus Wednesday, Dec. 3 and Monday, Dec. 8. The candidates will meet with Kent State president Beverly Warren, other university vice presidents and cabinet members, deans, the Institutional Advancement staff, the committee for administrative officers, the Foundation Board and the Alumni Board, said Eric Mansfield, executive director of Media Relations.

A university-wide survey was released Sept. 3 for students, faculty, staff and Kent State community members to determine what they were looking for in a potential vice president.

Based on survey results, the Kent State community is looking for a face of fundraising who is honest, open, knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

Survey takers, which included faculty, staff, students, community members and donors said the greatest opportunities for the next vice president are building relationships with alumni and donors, funding for programs and focusing on the success of the university.

Vice President of Research search begins

Provost Todd Diacon is the chair of the search committee for the vice president of research, who helps faculty and staff obtain funding for their research and projects. The search committee has had one meeting so far.

Diacon said he would like to see a vice president of research have a thorough understanding of funding and the ability to be the ultimate facilitator.

He said the vice president should be familiar with both public and private funding agencies because scientists doing research require large amounts of funding.

As far as facilitating, Diacon said he wants someone who can bring two people who are doing similar research together to collaborate. He said many people who are in a vice president of research position often have successful research careers, but that success doesn’t necessarily translate into a facilitation skill.

“It’s one thing to be the person who’s doing all these things, but we ask them to go one step beyond,” Diacon said. “That is, now think less about your own self and more about getting the right people together and facilitating their success.”

The committee is using Harris Search Associates, a global search firm based out of Dublin, Ohio, to assist with the process, Mansfield said.

Diacon said the search committee has met with the search consultants to set a timeline, walk through procedures and suggest names of possible candidates. Diacon said he does not have anyone in mind for the position, and he would prefer to remain neutral, but his colleagues on the search committee are accomplished in research and have an idea of what they want from candidates.

“My guess is because they’re accomplished in research, they’re out there in national meetings and have national networks, and they will have very appropriate ideas for candidates,” said Diacon of his fellow committee members.

The search committee will meet again before break, Diacon said. He also said he hopes to have the top three candidates selected by February and a finalist chosen by April 1.

A survey is currently in the works to be sent out to Kent State community members to get their opinions on the skills the candidate should have.

Former vice president of research William Grant McGimpsey stepped down from the position in August to return to faculty, though he is holding the vice president position until it is filled. He is currently a candidate in the University of Memphis’ search for a new vice president of research, according an article by the Daily Helmsman.

Contact Marissa Barnhart at [email protected].