University advertises far and wide for pool of presidential candidates



Madeleine Winer

The advertisements look like simple fliers you might find tacked on a light post next to job offerings, yard sales and lost cats — but they’re part of Kent State’s initial push to seek out candidates for the next president.

The Presidential Search Committee, with assistance from the private search company Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, or SPA, has placed color advertisements in five publications of higher education and distributed a 26-page digital handbook to lure potential candidates.

“Hopefully it’s got a lot of sizzle,” committee chair Richard Marsh said about the Presidential Prospectus published online Aug. 28. “It’s a sell key to prospective candidates and gives an opportunity for the next president coming in to know the facts and figures. They can read through that, and it’ll give them a much better sense of how big the opportunity is.”

The handbook describes the university, its programs, the position of the president, qualities it looks for in candidates and the challenges and opportunities the next president will face.

Marsh said the search firm will email and send it to candidates they think are right for the job. After preliminary interviews, six to 12 candidates are invited for interviews with the search committee at a neutral site, such as an airport hotel, with the consultant acting as the coordinator.

“The consultant that we have at SPA is well-known in the community, and most of these people know them and can get a hold of them,” Marsh said about recruiting prospective candidates.

“With a telephone call, they can get into their system and go from there.”

Susan VanGilder, a principal at SPA, and Shelly Storbeck, managing partner at the firm, are listed as the contacts for applicants’ questions, requests for information, nominations and applications.

VanGilder did not respond to email and calls regarding how the firm has used the handbook.

According to its website, the search firm also will place phone calls to leaders of national associations and institutions who can either be candidates themselves or serve as sources to suggest strong candidates for the position.

“There could be 10 people I know who would be fabulous for the job, but the problem is they all have jobs,” said Lauren Rich Fine, executive search consultant at Howard & O’Brien Associates in Cleveland. “But I say let me talk to them to see if they would know anyone. It’s a lot of networking and reaching out to people.”

SPA claims to have an extensive national professional network, which includes a diverse candidate spectrum. Kent State’s search committee has adopted a database that tracks the arrival and status of all candidate applications and nominations.

“If you’re a specialist, you probably have a very comprehensive database of all the heads of school, and you can slice it and dice it by different attributes,” Fine said. “You would also go out to those people and say, ‘who is someone who is being groomed? Who you think would be really good?’ […] You are trying to always freshen your database and find new people.”

The committee will begin reviewing applicants in September and continue until an appointment is made June 1, 2014. Applications and nominations it receives by Oct. 15 will be “assured of full consideration” for the position.

Marsh said the next committee meeting will be toward the end of September to give the search firm time to recruit and the committee time to meet with other student groups.

“In terms of how the process goes, it depends on how many great candidates come out of the narrow end of the funnel,” Marsh said. “They have to work their angles and do some back and forth between the committee and them and continue to move candidates from the wide to the narrow end of the funnel.”

What’s Kent State looking for in its next president?

The committee has placed ads in five different higher education publications:

  • Chronicle of Higher Education, Friday’s and Sept. 13th’s print issues and online
  • Higher Ed Jobs, online
  • Inside Higher Ed, online
  • Women in Higher Education, online
  • Hispanic Outlook & Diverse Issues in Higher Education, online

Competition from other schools

The University of Akron

Search committee: The University of Akron board of trustees, led by board chair Richard Pogue

Public involvement: The board will meet Sept. 16 to begin the search process for the next university president. That meeting will begin at 7:30 a.m. in the Student Union, Board Room (339).

Website: The Board of Trustees’ website has a tab “Search for the 16th President of The University of Akron” where all updates will be posted.

Status: The search is in the beginning stages. No search firm has been announced. The Board of Trustees will kick off the search at its Sept. 16 meeting.

Reason for presidential departure: President Luis Proenza is stepping down to become the chair in higher education and the economy. In June, he will step down, take a year sabbatical and return as a full-time professor and president emeritus.

Candidates/Finalists: Pogue said Jim Tressel, former Ohio State football coach and vice president for strategic engagement at The University of Akron, is being considered for the position. Rumors suggest Tressel will be named interim president or president when Proenza departs.

The Ohio State University

Search committee: Ohio State’s 18-member presidential search committee is comprised of two subcommittees: an advisory subcommittee, made up of university faculty, staff and students; and a selection subcommittee comprised of five trustees. The head of Ohio State’s search committee is Jeffrey Wadsworth.

Public involvement: The search committee has hosted many forums, the last of which will be Thursday on Ohio State’s main campus. Anyone can nominate candidates.

Website: The search committee has an active presidential search website where the public can offer feedback or recommend candidates, available on the Ohio State board of trustees’ website.

Status: The committee is working on the presidential profile and position description, said Heather Link, associate secretary to the board of trustees. The committee has hired Dallas-based search firm R. William Funk & Associates to assist with the process.

Reason for presidential departure: Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee retired after religious slurs he said at a meeting were published, though he said his decision was not a result of the incident. Joseph Alutto, executive vice president and provost, is serving as interim president with no specific deadline to find a new president.

Candidates/Finalists: Unknown

Hiram College

Search committee: The 16-person search committee consists of faculty, staff, and trustees to identify several candidates, bring them to the campus for review and ultimately recommend one of them to the board for selection as Hiram’s next president. The committee is headed by Robert Turner, senior vice president of transportation company Union Pacific Corporation.

Public involvement: Questions about the search are directed to [email protected].

Website: The search committee has a website outlining the position summary, members of the search committee, current President Thomas Chema and the search firm.

Status: The search committee has hired Korn/Ferry International, a premier global provider of talent management solutions.

Reason for presidential departure: Chema cited “a natural ebb and flow in any executive leadership position like a college presidency” as the reason for him leaving the university. Plans call for Hiram’s 22nd president to begin July 1, 2014.

Candidates/Finalists: Unknown

Pennsylvania State University

Search committee: Penn State’s presidential search consists of two parts: the board of trustees’ Presidential Selection Council that consists of 12 trustees and Peter Tombros, chair of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, all of which oversee the search process; and The Presidential Search and Screen Committee, an 18-member committee consisting of nine faculty members; one staff member; two academic deans; one vice president; two undergraduate students and one graduate student; and one representative each from the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Alumni Association.

Public involvement: The search committee has met with various campus groups and will create opportunities for the university community to have input into the process, according to its website. Nominations, thoughts and input from the public can be emailed to [email protected].

Website: The search committee has an active presidential search website where the public can recommend candidates or inquire about applications.

Status: The search committee hired Isaacson, Miller, a search firm that completes more than 200 executive searches per year. Karen Peetz, chair of Penn State’s board of trustees, said in order to attract the best candidates, the names of any presidential hopefuls will remain confidential, although the process will be transparent as these groups move through the steps to name Penn State’s next leader.

Reason for presidential departure: Penn State President Rodney Erickson announced he would retire on June 30, 2014, or before, if the search is successfully concluded before that date.

University of Michigan

Search committee: The University of Michigan’s presidential search committee consists of eight members of the university’s board of regents and eight faculty members.

Public involvement: The committee will host a series of public outreach meetings in September and October. Nominations can be emailed to [email protected].

Website: The search committee has an active presidential search website where the public can recommend candidate or inquire about applications and meetings.

Status: The search committee is currently hosting its public outreach meetings. It hired search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, an executive recruiting firm with offices in 26 countries.

Reason for Presidential Departure: University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman will retire when her contract ends in July 2014.

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].