Isaacson, Miller Seeks CHRO for the University of Virginia

October 15, 2021 – Isaacson, Miller has been enlisted to find a chief human resources officer (CHRO) for the University of Virginia (UVA). Partner Ponneh Varho is leading the assignment along with senior associates Katherine Stellato and Kelly McLaughlin. “This is an excellent opportunity for an experienced and innovative leader in the field to play a critical role in serving one of the nation’s leading public institutions,” said the search firm.

The vice president and CHRO serves as the lead human resources executive at UVA, championing a culture that empowers the university’s workforce and fosters employee engagement in ways that advance UVA’s strong commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, said the search firm. Reporting directly to the executive vice president and chief operating officer, the CHRO serves as a member of the university’s senior leadership team as a trusted strategic partner, one who delivers consistent service and upholds shared principles across the organization. The CHRO works closely with executive leadership: the president on advancing UVA’s strategic priorities as outlined in the 2030 plan; the executive vice president and provost and the deans of the schools on recruitment, hiring and retention of faculty in the academic division; and the executive vice president for health affairs on recruitment, hiring and retention of healthcare professionals in the medical center. UVA HR offers streamlined processes and consistent service across the academic division, medical center, and physician clinical practice plan.

Key Areas

The CHRO leads an award-winning HR organization encompassing four major areas: communities of expertise (talent, service, and IMPACT/decision support), HR service for UVA Health, HR strategy and communications, and change management.

The CHRO oversees six direct reports, manages a budget of about $35 million and leads a team of about 225 individuals who serve almost 30,000 employees across the university community, said Isaacson, Miller.

Candidates should have more than 10 years of progressively responsible human resources management experience, ideally within a complex organization, such as a large healthcare organization or research university, said the search firm. Senior human resources professional certification (SHRM-SCP and/or HRCI SPHR) or other professional certification is preferred.

Experience working within or in partnership with a health system or academic medical center is a key qualification for this role. Previous success in establishing respectful and mutually reinforcing relationships across an organization to advance priorities and interests is also important. The University of Virginia also wants candidates who can work as part of a senior leadership team to foster a positive, service-oriented culture.

Related: Academic Sector Pumping Big Fees Into Search Firms

In 1819, Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and inaugurated a bold experiment – a public university designed to advance human knowledge, educate leaders, and cultivate an informed citizenry. Today, the Charlottesville-based university has a strong arts and sciences faculty, a broad range of professional schools and a strong academic medical center. UVA has almost $15 billion in endowments and investments. One of the largest employers in central Virginia, the university employs nearly 30,000 people, including about 16,000 faculty and staff, and nearly 12,000 UVA Health employees.

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. Mr. Isaacson founded Isaacson, Miller in 1982.

Ms. Varho is a member of the executive committee at Isaacson, Miller and the leader of the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Since joining the firm in 2007, she has built a strong higher education practice, having completed more than 100 searches for presidents, provosts, deans, and a broad range of functional leaders. Her searches often result in strong client affinity relationships, and she frequently works with her presidential placements to build out their leadership teams. Ms. Varho has conducted presidential searches for institutions including Bowdoin College, Spelman College, Vassar College, Wellesley College, and her alma mater, the University of Virginia. She has long been a champion of diversity and inclusion. In addition to her client work in this area, Ms. Varho co-chairs the firm’s diversity and inclusion initiative.

Ms. Stellato joined Isaacson, Miller in 2016. Prior to joining the firm, she served as an assistant director of admission in the Office of Undergraduate Admission at Princeton University, where she led four regional admissions committees, coordinated campus visits, and planned and conducted events for prospective and admitted students. In 2012, she was appointed associate director for alumni relations at Princeton, where, among other responsibilities, she supported the work of committees of its alumni council and, in 2016, led staff and alumni teams for a conference celebrating 100 years of Jewish life at Princeton.

Ms. McLaughlin joined Isaacson, Miller as a senior associate in 2021. Prior to joining the firm, she worked at the University of Pennsylvania as director of the Carey JD/MBA program. Previously, Ms. McLaughlin served as senior associate director of MBA admissions at the Wharton School, assistant director of admissions at Harvard Law School, and as a management consultant with Deloitte and Accenture.

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

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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