Isaacson, Miller Retained by UConn to Find New President

A number of top schools around the country have announced that they are seeking new, high profile leaders to usher them into the future. The University of Connecticut recently turned to Isaacson, Miller to find it next president. Let’s take a look at what kind of leader the college is seeking.

July 23, 2018 – As the new academic year approaches, a number of colleges and universities across the country are opening searches that, if all goes to plan, will provide high-profile leaders to take them into a new era of fundraising, digitalization, sports and, increasingly, globalization. To that end, the University of Connecticut has selected Isaacson, Miller to help find its next president. The school’s current leader, Susan Herbst, will be stepping down in 2019. John Isaacson, the search firm’s founder, is leading the assignment, along with Pam Pezzoli and Jennifer Carignan.

The school’s contract with Isaacson, Miller calls for a fee of $225,000, to be paid in five retainers of $45,000 apiece, according to the Hartford Courant. UConn’s board of trustees plans to interview finalists for the role in the late fall.

“Our goal was to ensure that the advisory committee is as broad-based and diverse as possible, reflecting UConn Nation’s many stakeholders and constituencies,” said board chair Thomas Kruger. “The views of every member will be considered as each brings their own unique perspective and experiences to the table. Leadership matters a great deal at an institution of this size and complexity, and the president we name will have an enormous impact on the university and its future.”


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Search Timeline

The advisory committee intends to meet soon to discuss the search timeline and the ideal qualifications, qualities and experience of potential candidates, said UConn. Isaacson, Miller is expected to spend the summer and early fall building a pool of candidates, with interviews taking place during the fall. The advisory committee will interview final candidates and share their evaluations of them with the board of trustees, which is ultimately responsible naming the president.


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Mr. Kruger said that the goal is to name the next president late this year or early in 2019. Under that proposed timeline, he said the board would seek the support of both outgoing Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, as well as his successor, pending the November election. The governor of Connecticut is ex-officio chair of the board. The board took the same approach in 2010 when it sought and received the support for hiring Ms. Herbst from Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the governor-elect, Mr. Malloy.

Ideal Candidates

The search process remains confidential throughout to help attract as many highly-qualified candidates as possible, the school said.

“We are seeking candidates who are highly accomplished leaders with a comprehensive understanding of and appreciation for the value of public higher education in Connecticut and throughout the nation,” said Mr. Kruger. “UConn is a major, highly-ranked research university with a global reputation for exceptional teaching, research and service. It has a powerful and transformative impact on the lives of our students, patients, the state of Connecticut and society as a whole.”

“Our ideal candidate will be an individual who can build on the extraordinary success UConn has achieved, working effectively with the governor and General Assembly as well as our faculty, staff, students, donors, fans, alumni and private sector partners,” he said. “Our goal is to do all we can to ensure UConn’s trajectory remains upward, and the next president will play a central role in helping to achieve that ambition.”

Related: Recruitment of Academia Presidents Rising

The search is being managed internally by Rachel Rubin, the university’s chief of staff and executive secretary to the board, and Michael Kirk, the deputy chief of staff. Mr. Kruger said that he has asked that Isaacson, Miller hold meetings with members of the campus community not on the search committee who wish to provide input on the search. The firm will also hold open forums for faculty, staff and students in the beginning of September.

“There will be ample opportunity for any member of the community to participate in a meaningful way,” he said.


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Established in 1881, the University of Connecticut is one of the top public research universities in the nation, with more than 30,000 students. The school offers over 100 majors, eight undergraduate degrees, 17 graduate degrees and five professional degree programs.

Finding Transformational Leaders

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 search 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. Mr. Isaacson founded Isaacson, Miller in 1982.

Related: Why Universities Have Stepped Up Efforts to Involve Search Firms

Ms. Pezzoli originally joined Isaacson, Miller in 2007, recruiting leaders in higher education as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations. She rejoined the firm last year, focusing on recruiting presidents, chancellors, provosts and deans in large public research universities, comprehensive institutions and private research universities. Her experience in systems of higher education, including SUNY and California State University, give her added insight into the challenges their leaders face.

Ms. Carignan focuses on presidential, provost and dean searches in academic and student affairs, as well as leadership searches for environment and conservation non-profit organizations. Since 2015, she has placed presidents for Isaacson, Miller clients Dickinson College, Converse College, DePauw University, Colby College, Davidson College and Bowdoin College, among others.

Related: Academic Sector Pumping Big Fees Into Search Firms

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

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