October 28, 2019 – Atlanta-based recruitment firm Parker Executive Search has been enlisted to find the next president for the University of Wyoming. Laura Wilder, the firm’s president, is leading the assignment along with vice president of higher education Porsha Williams.
This marks the fourth time in six years that the Laramie, WY-based university has sought a new president. This spring, the board of trustees announced that it would not be renewing the contract of Laurie Nichols, who was hired in 2016. The board has refused to make public the reasons behind its decision, which came as a surprise to many.
Neil Theobald, the university’s vice president for finance and administration and former president of Temple University, has been serving as acting president since this summer.
Donal O’Toole, a veterinary sciences professor and faculty senate chair, told Inside Higher Ed that the unexplained decision combined with multiple searches in a relatively short period as well as the usual challenges of recruiting top-level university leaders to come to Wyoming are likely to make the current search more difficult. “Getting good people here is hard, and something like this, especially when it comes out of the blue, complicates those searches,” he said.
A Compelling Vision
The University of Wyoming wants its next leader to be “a bold visionary president with high energy, an ability to work effectively with diverse constituents, and the capability to lead the institution in fulfilling the university’s public land-grant mission,” said Parker Executive Search.
Candidates should have a compelling vision, impeccable integrity, and exemplary leadership ability to ensure that UW conveys and fulfills a commitment to its land grant mission, and offers quality higher education instruction and research relevant to the 2lst century, said the search firm. They should also have a strong commitment to educating students with diverse academic interests so that they have the abilities to succeed in life. Also required is an ability to promote excellence in faculty and staff, insight into the mission and issues of higher education, commitment to academic freedom and an environment of tolerance and respect.
The role further requires the capability to build trust and unite diverse groups ranging from students, faculty and staff to business and community leaders, community college presidents and elected officials, said Parker Executive Search. A belief in and commitment to outreach in sustaining partnerships throughout the state, and identifying both ongoing and emerging state and community educational needs are also required for the role. Candidates should have strong managerial skills, including a significant understanding of finances, budgets and accounting systems. A master’s degree is required; terminal preferred.
Established as a land-grant institution in 1886, the University of Wyoming has nearly 200 areas of study, drawing more than 12,500 students from all 50 states and 90 countries. The school is the state’s only four-year university and is a nationally recognized teaching and research university. The university is known for its accomplished faculty and world-class facilities, its small student/faculty ratio, and quality undergraduate and graduate programs within its colleges of arts and sciences, agriculture and natural resources, business, education, engineering and applied science, health sciences, law, school of energy resources, and Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources.
Parker Executive Search conducts executive searches for corporations, colleges and universities and collegiate athletics. Its sports practice represents clients looking to fill positions such as president, CEO, EVP, SVP, general manager, executive director, conference commissioner, athletic director, head coach and assistant coach, among others. The firm’s sports practice has a wide range of client schools, including Notre Dame, Dartmouth, the University of Chicago, Iowa State, Fordham and the University of Central Florida.
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Ms. Wilder is responsible for the strategic leadership and day-to-day operations of the search firm. She has been there for 19 years and is responsible for leading the development and delivery of recruiting strategies and best practices across the firm’s core practice areas.
Ms. Wilder has been involved in all aspects of the search process and has conducted over 1,000 leadership searches. Her experience spans across AAU public research universities, regional and state colleges, and private liberal arts institutions. She has recruited for leadership positions across all levels of higher education and collegiate athletics. Ms. Wilder has also actively worked on middle- and senior-level searches for a variety of corporate clients in the sales, marketing, material management, logistics, human resources, general management, operations, manufacturing, construction and finance functions.
Ms. Williams leads business, client and candidate development for the firm’s higher education practice. Her career with the firm began as chief of staff to the president and quickly advanced through the ranks to her current leadership role. She is responsible for client management, candidate development and recruitment, and search execution. Ms. Williams has significant experience recruiting world class leaders among colleges and universities across the country. She has completed over 200 searches. In addition, Ms. Williams has conducted substantial work for Fortune 500 companies in the financial services industry.
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