October 20, 2016 – Executive search firm Wheless Partners has appointed Dr. Robert Witt, University of Alabama System chancellor emeritus, as a senior advisor to the firm’s higher education search practice.
“Given the numerous challenges higher education faces today, leadership for public colleges and universities has never been more imperative,” said CEO Mike Wheless. “Yet leadership development and succession planning in public higher education is lacking. Leadership development programs do not typically seek to assess, develop and improve leadership behaviors from the perspective of presidents or chancellors who have successfully performed this role in a systematic manner.”
Dr. Witt joins Wheless Partners after completing his tenure as chancellor of The University of Alabama System. With a budget exceeding $5 billion and an annual economic impact of more than $8 billion, the UA System is composed of doctoral research universities in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville as well as the acclaimed UAB Health System.
30 Years of Experience
During his nine years as president of The University of Alabama, Dr. Witt developed the highly successful University Honors College, hired head football coach Nick Saban and dramatically increased enrollment. Under his leadership, the school was consistently ranked among the leading public flagship universities in terms of national merit scholars. Dr. Witt’s distinguished career in higher education includes service as a department chair, associate dean, dean, president and chancellor.
“We are honored that Dr. Witt selected our firm. Dr. Witt is currently on a sabbatical year working on Alabama Unites for Education and preparing for his Honors College faculty appointment effective fall 2017,” said Mr. Wheless. “In his role as senior advisor he will assist our higher education industry practice in vital areas such as candidate selection and succession planning to help prepare new presidents to succeed in ‘Managing a 21st Century University.’
“I am excited about the opportunity to serve as a senior advisor for Wheless Partners,” said Dr. Witt. “I believe my over 30 years of experience as a dean, president and chancellor will enable me to contribute valuable insights to both search and consulting engagements.”
Searching for Academic Leadership
With offices in New York, Atlanta, Birmingham, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver and San Francisco, Wheless Partners has professionals in strategy, assessment, executive selection, leadership development, and executive coaching. The firm just recently merged with executive recruiters Chandler Group.
Searching for academic leadership is now akin to searching for leaders for any business enterprise. As such, as the new academic year begins, colleges and universities continue to turn to executive search firms to fill their most senior level roles. And search firms have stepped up, with some 150 recruiting specialist outfits now serving just the academia sector alone.
“It is no wonder that universities and institutions of higher learning are turning to executive search firms in droves to fill their top roles,” said Diversified Search CEO Dale Jones. At a time when many academic leaders are retiring or leaving their posts to pursue other interests, he said, competition to replace them is intense.
“Recruiters have the requisite skills to manage a process that at times can be unwieldy, but more importantly they can help to expand a university’s reach and use their well-honed assessment skills to find the very best leaders in and out of higher education,” said Mr. Jones.
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media