November 30, 2017 – Academic institutions continue to pump big fees into the coffers of executive search firms nationwide. Many academic recruiting specialists say business, in fact, has never been better. Even smaller recruiting outfits have multiple assignments running concurrently, all at the senior levels, and if there’s any slowdown coming it is to be found at the talent identification stage. With so much activity, it seems, talent demand is far outstripping the supply.
In recent months, a number of top schools have announced that they are looking for new, high profile leaders to take them into new eras of fundraising, digitalization, sports and, in some cases, globalization. Several universities haven’t changed leaders in years or even decades, and their boards of trustees and search committees are finding an entirely new and highly competitive landscape as they set out. It’s another good reason why they’re calling in recruiters to help.
Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania is the latest highly regarded college to launch a search for a new leader, turning to academic leadership recruiting specialist AGB Search to help find its next president. Executive search consultants JoAnn Gora and Laird Desmond are leading the assignment.
With past president Cheryl Norton’s retirement in June, Slippery Rock is looking for a leader to build on the school’s strengths and advance its mission, according to AGB. That individual should not only hold a doctorate or equivalent terminal degree, but also have a documented history of significant and successful senior leadership experience. A demonstrated ability to act decisively and strategically to effect positive change is critical. The next president, said the search firm, is also expected to be an eager fundraiser who has an open and collaborative leadership style, a passion for advocacy and brand building and enjoys being a visible, student-centered leader.
The new president must have the financial acumen to lead the university in matching aspirations with finite resources while thinking creatively about growth opportunities. A data-driven strategic and innovative thinker who will value and enhance Slippery Rock’s culture of strategic planning and fiscal accountability is highly desired, said AGB.
The individual should also have an aptitude and passion for building a culture of philanthropy. The incoming leader must be a “super communicator” who fosters a culture of transparency and openness and comfortably interacts with the campus and the community, said the search firm.
In its 128-year history, Slippery Rock has transitioned from a typical school with the primary purpose of training teachers, to a comprehensive regional public university offering 95 degree programs (65 bachelor’s, 27 master’s and three doctoral) to almost 9,000 students.
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Hunting Down University Leaders
AGB Search, which specializes in higher education leadership, conducts searches for college and university presidents, chancellors, provosts, vice presidents, deans, university system heads and CEOs of coordinating boards and related foundations. It recently placed presidents at Sierra Nevada College, Central Connecticut State University, Western Connecticut State University and the University of the District of Columbia. The firm was recently recognized as one of the leading academic search specialists on Hunt Scanlon Media’s Top 50 Non-Profit / Higher Education Search Firms list published in its newsletter ESR.
Dr. Gora, who joined AGB Search in 2014, has 40 years of experience in education and has held positions at every level of academic administration in both public and private universities. She has been responsible for developing leadership teams at universities across the country, with a focus on strategic planning, marketing, fund raising and building collaborative and effective teams. Most recently, Dr. Gora was president of Ball State University from 2004 until her retirement in 2014.
Ms. Desmond has 25 years of experience assisting executive leadership searches in higher education. Since joining AGB Search in 2011, she has assisted searches for a wide variety of positions, including president, provost, vice president for finance, dean of business, dean of education, chief information officer, vice president for university advancement, and director-level positions within a university foundation. She has worked with independent liberal arts colleges, religious-affiliated colleges and universities, HBCUs, comprehensive public institutions and system offices.
At the end of last year, AGB recruited former Ohio University president Roderick J. McDavis to be its CEO. Dr. McDavis was the university’s first African-American president and only the second alumnus to lead the school in its 212-year history.
“We knew Rod had stellar qualifications and numerous impressive accomplishments,” said Joyce Roche, chair of the AGB Search board of directors and vice chair of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges board of directors. “But what differentiated him were his energy and passion. He expressed a willingness to take risks and explore new territory that will take AGB Search to the next level. And he truly wants to make a difference for students.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media