University of New Hampshire Using Isaacson, Miller to Find 21st President

April 3, 2024 – Vijay Saraswat, Gale Merseth, Raul Bernal, and Debbie Scheibler of Boston-based Isaacson, Miller are currently seeking a new president for the University of New Hampshire (UNH). President James Dean announced that he would be stepping down on June 30, 2024, after serving six years in the school’s top role. The search firm seeks a passionate, articulate, and visionary leader to serve as the school’s next leader. Reporting to the University System of New Hampshire board of trustees, the president will provide strategic leadership and deft administrative management for the university, embracing the institution’s public service role and effectively communicating to a wide variety of constituents, internal and external.

Isaacson, Miller notes that the president will be a firm believer in, and champion of, the highest ideals of transformational education and impactful research aimed at global challenges and global solutions. By prioritizing transparency, collegiality, diversity, and high academic standards, the president will adroitly navigate the challenges that face higher education and respond to the state’s rapidly changing economic, demographic, and workforce realities.

While no candidate will embody every quality, the successful candidate will possess many of the following qualifications:

• A deep personal and professional commitment to UNH’s vision to be a leader in supportive, inclusive, student-centric teaching and learning while expanding the far horizon of inquiry and impact across all domains;

• The perspective needed to make difficult, strategic decisions and see them through to completion; the capacity to build, support, and lead strong teams; experience executing large, aspirational, entrepreneurial, and fiscally responsible plans;

• A skilled and clear communicator who will utilize new and traditional media, authentically engage constituents within and beyond UNH, and rally the community around shared goals and values;

• A record of success in addressing the concerns and anticipating the multifaceted needs of the UNH community, from faculty and students to UNH’s dedicated staff;

• A strong commitment to public education and appreciation for the important public role land-, sea and space-grant institutions play;

• A record of success in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts; a record of inculcating these values across a complex institution;

• Experience representing an institution compellingly to external audiences, including donors, community partners, and elected officials; the skills and personality to fundraise successfully; the passion to galvanize diverse constituent groups in support of the institution; the presence needed to raise the profile and visibility of UNH on local, regional, state, national, and international levels.

The University of New Hampshire was founded in 1866 and is the flagship and largest institution of the University System of New Hampshire (USNH). Its physical presence spans the main campus in Durham, the UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law in Concord, and the UNH Manchester campus. The school serves approximately 16,000 students (13,000 undergraduate students and 3,000 graduate students) in 11 schools and colleges, taught by 1,500 faculty and 2,800 staff.

Nationally Recognized Firm

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: Why Universities Have Stepped Up Efforts to Involve Search Firms

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.

The High Demand for Higher Education Leaders Continues
With a new school year approaching, a number of top colleges and universities have announced they are seeking new, high profile leaders to take them into new eras of fundraising, digitalization, sports and, in some cases, globalization. Several universities haven’t changed leaders in years or even decades, and their boards of trustees and search committees are finding an entirely new and highly competitive landscape as they set out. It is another reason why they’re calling in executive recruiters to assist.

Mr. Saraswat has built expertise across a wide range of higher education searches since joining Isaacson, Miller in 2012. He has also played a key role in the firm’s STEM practice, solving complex leadership placements such as the founding director of the Institute for Quantitative Health Sciences and Engineering at Michigan State University and the chair of the computer science department at the University of Chicago. Other searches include center directors, chairs, deans of sciences and engineering, vice presidents for research, and campus and system presidents.

Mr. Merseth leads higher education searches with a particular emphasis on university presidencies and deanships of business and other professional schools that have a strong applied and career-oriented focus. He has placed more than 35 business school deans for public and private universities as well as CEOs for several non-profits. Since joining Isaacson, Miller in 2004, he has become a partner to his clients, as demonstrated by his repeat work with clients such as the University of Maryland. He spent 13 years as a faculty member and administrator at Harvard Business School and four years as founding dean of the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.

Mr. Bernal joined Isaacson, Miller as a senior associate in 2021. His experience in higher education includes roles in career services, enrollment management, and executive education and training. Most recently, Mr. Bernal  served as director of career and professional success for liberal arts students at the University of New Hampshire. In addition to his work in higher education, he brings knowledge and experience working with non-profits, foundations, and international development agencies.

Dr. Scheibler joined Isaacson, Miller as a senior associate in 2022. Previously, she served for 15 years as a senior administrator in higher education, most notably in housing and residence life, student behavioral management, and crisis response. In addition to her diverse housing experiences, Dr. Scheibler brings expertise in curriculum development, professional association leadership, policy creation, Title IX case management, student rights and responsibilities, and high-level crisis management.

Related: Hunt Scanlon Top 50 Non-Profit & Higher Education Search Firms

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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