Isaacson, Miller Seeks CHRO for Michigan State University

March 10, 2022 – Isaacson, Miller has been enlisted to find the first vice president and chief human resources officer for Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, MI. Leading the assignment is partner Rebecca Kennedy along with associate Stephanie Simon. MSU is seeking an experienced executive leader and strategic partner for this role, said the Boston-based search firm. The CHRO will join the university at a key inflection point as MSU prepares for transformational growth. Reporting to the executive vice president for administration and chief information officer, Melissa Woo, the individual will oversee the delivery of HR policies, programs, benefits, and services for about 12,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff. The HR leader will be expected to work collaboratively across campus to integrate high-quality human resources services throughout all facets of the university. He or she will be charged with helping to guide the transformation of the HR function toward becoming a true strategic partner to executive and administrative leadership and the populations served by the HR team, focused on both driving a culture of greater accountability, as well as supporting efforts in promoting MSU as an employer-of-choice.

This HR leader must also implement a collaborative strategy to successfully realign MSU’s outdated employee classification system, said Isaacson, Miller.

A Service-Oriented Culture

Among other duties, the CHRO will lead a “service-oriented culture of innovation, accountability, and excellence,” said the search firm. The position involves developing and executing a robust talent management strategy that includes effective talent acquisition programs to ensure the appropriate recruitment and long-term retention of faculty, staff, and executive management employees.

The ideal candidate must have high-level executive human resources leadership experience, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, and the ability to lead and implement change in a consensus-driven and proactive manner, said Isaacson, Miller. The prospect must possess significant experience as a senior executive in an organization of relevant size and complexity, with a deep and broad background in human resources, and a command of innovative practices in the field.

Desired Skills and Qualities

Candidates should also have many of the following skills and qualities: proven experience designing and leading transformative change in large, complex, fast-paced, and growing organizations; established practice leading and partnering with key constituents to implement a new employee classification system; and an informed perspective on what is required to execute human resource operations on a global level, with relevant experience in the international domain.

Familiarity with the following areas would also be beneficial: HR systems, compensation and classification, benefits, talent management/acquisition, and employee/labor relations. “While the selected candidate is not expected to be an expert in all areas, the ideal individual will have sufficient knowledge to understand each functional area in enough depth to leverage the appropriate resources to drive desired outcomes,” said Isaacson, Miller.

Related: Recruitment for Higher Education Leaders Heats Up and Shifts

Founded in 1855, Michigan State University is a premiere land-grant university, and an innovator in research, teaching, and application of knowledge. MSU has evolved into a world-class institution, offering a full spectrum of programs, and attracting gifted professors, staff members, and students. The university is part of the Big Ten Conference and since 1964 has been one of 66 members of the prestigious Association of American Universities.

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.


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.


John 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.

Ms. Kennedy has more than 15 years of experience recruiting leaders in higher education and nonprofit organizations. She specializes in functional leadership positions including research administration, technology transfer and commercialization, compliance, privacy, finance, and academic administration. Ms. Kennedy particularly enjoys recruiting individuals into newly created positions, such as the president and CEO of the UCLA Technology Development Corp., senior director of privacy at Stanford University, and assistant vice president of Title IX compliance at Northeastern University. Prior to joining Isaacson, Miller in 2015, she was a principal at Brill Neumann Associates.

Ms. Simon became an associate in 2021. She joined Isaacson, Miller in 2016 as executive assistant to Mr. Isaacson, and served as managing search coordinator in Boston. Ms. Simon has managed president, provost, and dean searches in higher education along with executive-level searches within arts and culture.

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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