Recruiters Bulk Up As Demand Rises for Higher Education Chiefs

September 28, 2015 – Witt/Kieffer has added four new industry experts to its growing education search sector practice. The firm’s education recruitment team identifies higher education and college preparatory school leaders who understand complex issues facing both public and private institutions.

Charlene Aguilar joins the firm as a consultant in its South Bend, Indiana office. She brings 30 years of professional expertise and experience and will support leadership searches for college and university presidents, chancellors, provosts and deans, in addition to key positions in advancement, academic and student affairs, enrollment and admissions. She also brings considerable knowledge and experience in diversity and inclusion initiatives across the spectrum of independent secondary schools along with public and non-profit enterprises. Prior to joining Witt/Kieffer, Ms. Aguilar served as associate director of the annual fund at the University of Chicago Law School, as director of undergraduate admissions at Santa Clara and as school relations counselor for undergraduate recruitment at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Jennifer Desjarlais joins Witt/Kieffer as a consultant and will be based in Massachusetts. She will also support leadership searches across all academic areas, specializing in enrollment and admissions for colleges and universities across the nation. Before joining Witt/Kieffer, Ms. Desjarlais served as dean of admission and financial aid at Wellesley College for seven years and as dean of admission for six years. She also held key admission leadership positions at Smith College and Simmons College.

Melissa Fincher, based in Columbus, OH, joins as an associate in the firm’s education practice. She comes with more than a decade of human capital experience working in higher education and academic medicine including human resources, student affairs, enrollment services, advancement and administration and planning. Most recently, Ms. Fincher held the role of talent and organizational development consultant with Ohio State University. Prior to her time at OSU, she worked with Johns Hopkins external affairs and development as a human resources consultant.

Ben Haden has been named a senior associate and will work from the firm’s San Diego office. His focus will be on identifying and recruiting presidents, provosts, vice presidents and deans for both public and private institutions. He joins the firm’s education practice with over 15 years of prior experience in talent management, executive search, business development and project management in education. Previously, he served as an executive recruiter for the University of California, San Diego, in addition to serving as director of employee recruiting for LPL Financial and holding a recruiting role at Scripps Health.

“This is a historic time for Witt/Kieffer’s education practice. The industry is undergoing great change, and each of our new hires has exceptional experience and industry knowledge that will help us respond to this environment in flux,” said Charles W.B. Wardell, president and CEO. “We have a steadfast commitment to the education sector and to our clients. We are pleased to welcome our new additions, and look forward to their many contributions to the leading colleges and universities we serve.”

Robin Mamlet, who will assume leadership of Witt Kieffer’s education practice as managing partner in October, said that as the field of education progresses, the needs of clients evolve as well. “Ben, Melissa, Jennifer and Charlene understand these needs and, given their proven track records, they will be able to provide support as we continue to help our clients find exceptional leaders.”

Ms. Mamlet focuses on helping institutions find their next generation of leaders. She directs search assignments for presidents, provosts, deans, chief advancement officers, and chief public affairs and communications, diversity, student affairs and enrollment officers. Recently she recruited president posts for California Lutheran University, Drexel University, Elms College, Presbyterian College, Scripps College and University of Utah.

In combination with these four recent hires, Witt/Kieffer has also promoted Amy Crutchfield, Mercedes Chacón Vance, and Ann Yates to contribute to the growth of the firm’s education practice.

“University presidents, provosts, and even the search committees tasked with the mandate to find exceptional educational leaders require leadership attributes that emphasize more of a CEO-style in approach, background and expertise,” said Scott A. Scanlon, founding CEO of Greenwich-based Hunt Scanlon Media. “Even though fundamental practices and principles apply, the placement of executives for colleges and universities is just as sophisticated as it is for any major company today. The stakes, in some cases, can even be greater.”

So can the pay. Two years ago, nine chief executives at public universities enjoyed compensation packages exceeding $1 million, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. That number is expected to rise dramatically in the coming year or two as C-level vacancies are filled with seasoned business professionals. According to recruiters servicing these senior level university leadership needs, younger leaders are in demand who might possess more evolved thinking socially as well as different skill sets that are more contemporary, i.e., they are social media oriented and tech savvy. Change agents, and ‘transformative leaders,’ are in high demand as well.

“Recruiting for the very senior ranks in higher education has been evolutionary,” said Mr. Scanlon. “These are difficult, 24/7 jobs just like in business. And so the whole approach to recruiting in this field is much more holistic now. Fundraising is a big part of the job, and I’d argue that these are even considered to be global posts, especially at the big universities. It’s a totally new game.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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