December 16, 2019 – William Funk & Associates, which specializes in recruitment for roles in higher education, has placed Barbara Bichelmeyer as the next provost and executive vice chancellor for the Lawrence campus at the University of Kansas (KU). Her appointment concludes a national search process that began in the spring. Four finalists were invited to the university to meet with members of the community and deliver a public presentation beginning in October.
“Barbara is a talented researcher and administrator as well as a proud KU alumna with an unabashed love for this place,” said the school’s chancellor, Douglas A. Girod. “Beyond her credentials. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her for years on initiatives to enhance higher education’s role in regional economic development. As a result of our work together, I have come to know Barbara as a genuine and compassionate person who cares deeply about students, research and higher education.”
Ms. Bichelmeyer, who will start her new role in February, is currently the provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she also served as interim chancellor. Prior to that, she held numerous leadership roles at Indiana University-Bloomington and elsewhere within the Indiana University system.
Established in 1865, the University of Kansas is a large, state-sponsored university, with five campuses. Enrollment at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses was 24,708 students with an additional 3,383 students enrolled at the KU Medical Center for a total enrollment of 28,091 students across the three campuses.
The Kansas Board of Regents, which is responsible for hiring the state’s public university heads, has used several recruiting firms in recent years to find school leaders, including AGB Search (Emporia State University and Fort Hays State University) and Academic Search (Kansas State University).
Higher Education Specialists
William Funk & Associates has conducted more than 400 searches for university and college presidents and chancellors over the last 35 years. The firm is also undertaking the president search for Bradley University.
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; 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.
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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; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media