Isaacson, Miller Called in by University of Michigan to Find 15th President

The Boston-based search firm is charged with nothing less than finding a leader for one of the most highly regarded public research universities anywhere. Insights from the university community will play a critical part in finding the right individual for the role.

February 15, 2022 – The University of Michigan (UM) has retained Isaacson, Miller to assist in the search for its 15th president. John Isaacson, John Muckle and Elizabeth Dorr are spearheading the assignment. The school removed Mark Schlissel as president in December after it learned that Dr. Schlissel may have been involved in an inappropriate relationship with a university employee. The board has named former University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman as interim president. The presidential search committee will work with regents and Isaacson, Miller to identify and review candidates and make recommendations to the full board of regents, which is responsible for electing university presidents according to the state constitution. To protect candidate privacy and encourage the greatest number of well-qualified candidates to apply, the committee will keep candidate names confidential. The committee will reach out across the university community to solicit feedback on the most critical opportunities for the university moving forward and the qualities the school needs in a new president. This will include a series of virtual listening sessions throughout February.

The president of the University of Michigan, a leading public research university, is one of the most prominent and influential positions in all of higher education. “The committee’s work will rely on the university community’s insight into the challenges and opportunities that may face our university and its new president in the coming decade, as well as the personal characteristics and experiences needed to lead the university at this moment in time,” the school said in a statement. “We hope that all members of our university community will lend their opinions, insights and expertise to this critical endeavor.”

Regents Sarah Hubbard and Denise Ilitch, co-chairs of the committee, announced the committee’s formation in a message last week to the school’s community. The search committee, which also includes members of University of Michigan’s Dearborn and Flint campuses, is “widely representative of our diverse university community,” Ms. Hubbard wrote in the message. “We are grateful for their willingness to engage in this important work.”

The importance of the UM presidency in all of higher education makes this committee’s work that much more important, said Ms. Ilitch. “The committee’s work will rely on the university community’s insight into the challenges and opportunities that may face our university and its new president in the coming decade, as well as the personal characteristics and experiences needed to lead the university at this moment in time,” she said.

The University of Michigan is a public research university in Ann Arbor. Founded in 1817 by an act of the old Michigan Territory, as the Catholepistemiad, or the University of Michigania, 20 years before the territory became a state, the university is Michigan’s oldest. The university consists of 19 colleges and offers degree programs at undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels in some 250 disciplines. The university’s enrollment is about 32,000 undergraduate students and 16,000 graduate students.

Mission-Driven Clients

A nationally recognized search firm focused on recruiting transformational leaders for mission-driven organizations, Isaacson, Miller has conducted thousands of placements over more than three decades. More than half of the firm’s work has been in academia, involving university presidents, college chancellors and deans. The firm has filled top leadership posts at Wellesley College, Washington State University, Miami University, Howard University, Bowdoin College, Dartmouth, NYU, Virginia State University and the University of North Carolina, among others.

Related: Recruitment for Higher Education Leaders Heats Up and Shifts

Mr. Isaacson, the firm’s chair, founded Isaacson, Miller in 1982. He has led searches in many areas of the firm’s practice. Mr. Isaacson has helped the firm develop its cumulative knowledge of the craft of search and has attended, with increasing interest, to the missionary purposes of institutions, the political and economic disciplines of specialized markets, and the emotional and intellectual learnings that leaders acquire in a committed working life.

Wharton School Taps Isaacson, Miller to Find Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

Isaacson, Miller has been enlisted to find a chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Keight Tucker Kennedy is leading the assignment, with Tiffany Weber and Kelly McLaughlin. “The inaugural chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer will use a data-informed approach to provide school-wide leadership and support in pursuit of Wharton’s core values of fostering a culture that is adept at supporting and leveraging differences within our community; utilizing fair and transparent practices that foster equitable decision making and outcomes; promoting dignity and respect across and among all constituents (e.g. students, staff, faculty); and fostering opportunities to contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion through Wharton’s research, teaching and community engagement,” said the Boston-based search firm.

Mr. Muckle heads the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) practice area for the firm, building scientific capacity at many leading academic institutions. He also has engaged in a number of the firm’s most recent university president and provost searches. In addition, Mr. Muckle is a leader in the firm’s healthcare practice, where he oversees the recruitments of deans, department chairs, division chiefs, and biomedical center and institute directors. He has assisted clients such as Duke University, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the University of Iowa and the University of Pennsylvania, among other leading academic healthcare organizations to attract talent at all levels.

Recently Called In

Oregon State University (OSU) recently retained Isaacson, Miller to assist in the search for its next president. Partners David Bellshaw and Julie Filizetti are leading the assignment with senior associate Phuong Ta and associate Kathy Martinez. F. King Alexander, OSU’s previous president, resigned last March amid criticism over his handling of sexual misconduct charges during his time as president of Louisiana State University. Isaacson, Miller, which worked with OSU on previous searches, for a provost and two vice provost openings, addressed the search process at an OSU board meeting last month. “Isaacson, Miller has a long history of working with OSU on executive searches,” said trustee Julie Manning during the session.

The board said it is looking to execute a more open search than the one conducted for Dr. Alexander, which was completely closed. Still, some of the presidential search will still remain confidential, including selection and interviews of semi-finalists, said the OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting) website. “In order to attract the broadest and most diverse pool of candidates, the board had decided at its retreat to allow for a measure of confidentiality,” said Ms. Manning in that report. “However, the transparency of the process, of the search, is also important.”

Related: Isaacson, Miller Selected to Find New Provost for Dartmouth College

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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