Outside firm to aid search for UM president

The UM system will also launch a website for interested candidates.

The UM System Board of Curators began its January meeting Thursday at MU discussing the search for the next university president.

Dialogue mostly concerned whether to hire a search firm, something that has been done in many previous searches.

The board approved the hiring of a presidential search firm, as well as sending a letter out to possible firms showing the system’s interest in hiring them to find a replacement for former president Gary Forsee, who resigned in early January.

“All of this leads up to getting a search firm, and you all getting input and advice on choosing the next president,” said Betsy Rodriguez, UM System Human Resources vice president.

Board of Curators Chairman Warren Erdman said, although he doesn’t think the search committee should rely on a search firm for the entire process, it is necessary. He said the firm could conduct background searches, for instance.

“I think it’s worth having a qualified search firm that we interview and approve,” Erdman said. “I think the university deserves that kind of approach.”

He said he has already received recommendations for the new president, which he will turn over to the search firm. Rodriguez said it is the search committee’s responsibility to attract and maintain a diverse applicant pool.

She said there are eight to 12 firms the System is looking at hiring, but she said she believes about five are capable of conducting the search. Important qualifications for the search firm, she said, include firm experience and knowledge and the ability to maintain candidates’ privacy.

Rodriguez said the timeline ebbs between six and 12 months, usually.

“Is it realistic to expect to have someone on board when the first semester of next school year starts?” Curator Don Downing said.

Probably not, the board agreed. Rodriguez said it is extremely rare for the decision to be made in only six months.

“Sometimes it happens very quickly, and sometimes it happens very slowly,” Rodriguez said.

Board members echoed this sentiment. Curator John Carnahan said the process is going to take longer than someone would think.

In addition to the search firm, Erdman said he believes the committee should elicit the input of stakeholder groups, one being students. He said these groups should lie out expectations for the president’s job description.

Student representative to the board Laura Confer said graduating members of the Intercampus Student Council should not be involved in the search, to maintain continuity. Consequently, the council will recommend two students, likely juniors, for service on the advisory committee.

“It is important that we bring the public into this process the best that we can,” Erdman said.

UM System spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead said for the first time, the System will host a website providing information to interested candidates. It will be unveiled Friday.

“We’ll just continue to funnel current information there,” Hollingshead said.

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