September 4, 2019 – With the new academic year underway, 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 the case, globalization.
R. William Funk & Associates, which specializes in recruitment for roles in higher education, has been selected by Rutgers University to find its next president. Robert L. Barchi recently told the board of governors that the 2019-2020 academic year will be his last as university president. R. William Funk, president of the Dallas-based recruitment firm, is leading the search.
“It has been my privilege and pleasure to lead this community during the past seven years, and this will continue to be the case during my eighth and final year,” said Mr. Barchi, who was recruited by R. William Funk & Associates as Rutgers’ 20th president in 2012.
The search firm is hoping to find a candidate that can build on Mr. Barchi’s work. Mr. Barchi began his tenure at Rutgers leading one of the largest integrations in American higher education to form Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and later oversaw the partnership with RWJBarnabas Health to create New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive academic health system. Since he joined Rutgers in 2012, honors colleges in New Brunswick and Newark have been built to attract New Jersey’s best students, and endowed professorships increased from 41 to 89 to attract world-renowned faculty. More than $2.5 billion in construction provided new facilities for chemistry, nursing, engineering, life sciences and student life, and more than $1 billion in fundraising in the last five years alone set records.
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“Under Bob Barchi’s leadership, Rutgers’ national rankings have risen, research at Rutgers has expanded overall and in critical areas, our student academic profile has enjoyed dramatic improvement, and the physical face of Rutgers has been forever changed,” said board of governors chair Mark Angelson. “We are delighted with his leadership and we are grateful that he will lead Rutgers for an eighth and final year.”
Details about the search process for replacing Mr. Barchi, which will include outreach to all university faculty, students, staff and alumni, will be announced in the coming weeks. “We want somebody who prioritizes research in education, and values students, faculty and staff,” Todd Wolfson, president of the Rutgers faculty union, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Founded in 1766, Rutgers is the nation’s eighth oldest college. Rutgers University-New Brunswick is the flagship campus, with an enrollment of more than 42,000 students (about 33,650 undergraduates and 8,600 graduate students). The school employs about 10,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff. Its annual budget is upwards of $1.7 billion.
Higher Education Specialists
R. William Funk & Associates is an executive search firm specializing in higher education executive recruitment. The firm has conducted more than 400 searches for university and college presidents and chancellors over the last 35 years. It just recently placed Steven Leath as the 19th president of Auburn University. The firm is also undertaking the president search for Bradley University.
Recruitment of Academia Presidents Rising
Reduced state funding, rising tuition costs, soaring student debt and decreased federal research funding have all contributed to a dramatic rise in the role search firms are playing in the recruitment of university presidents and chancellors.
Mr. Funk is one of the best known and most widely respected consultants serving higher education. Among the nearly 70 currently sitting presidents he has helped recruit are many of the nation’s most respected and admired university chief executives, including: Michael V. Drake, president of Ohio State University; Carol Folt, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Robert Robbins, president of the University of Arizona; G.P. Peterson, president of Georgia Tech; Douglas Girod, chancellor of the University of Kansas; Ruth Watkins, president of the University of Utah; Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston; Neeli Bendapudi, president of the University of Louisville; and James Clements, president of Clemson University, among many others.
On Wisconsin, a University of Wisconsin publication, proclaimed in an article that “…Funk is higher education’s ultimate insider, its answer to the Kevin Bacon game: his list of friends and acquaintances includes the top oﬃcials at nearly every major American university. Pick any school on the map and you’re likely to find no more than a few degrees of Bill Funk. He has become the most highly regarded search consultant in higher education.”
Big Business for Recruiters
Searching for academic leadership has become comparable to searching for leaders of any business enterprise, according to recruiters in the field. At a time when many academic leaders are retiring or leaving their posts to pursue other interests, the competition to replace them has grown intense. Executive search firms provide universities with guidance when filling these critical roles.
“At a very basic level, colleges and universities typically only conduct president or chancellor searches once every seven or eight years,” said Mr. Funk. “They don’t have the internal expertise or the organization to conduct these searches themselves.” When the need to conduct a president search arises, he added, “boards will reach out to search firms such as ours to help them lead it.” The search process, he concluded, is “complex, fragile, and nuance-laden,” and search firms simply have the expertise to get the job done.
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