Presidential search: update and recap

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Saint Louis University released an official presidential profile on Oct. 29. The presidential search process is now in it’s second phase as the search committee and AGB Search, the search firm hired to assist in the process, will begin to recruit a pool of candidates over the next two to three months.

The presidential profile is intended to define what qualities the best possible presidential candidate will have in addition to communicating the unique and essential parts of SLU. Members of the search committee and Jamie Ferrare, the managing principle of AGB Search, spent most of October collecting data and meeting with various university groups to get a holistic view of what the university desires in its next president. The information gathered in those meetings formed the backbone of the final profile.

The profile maintains a strong focus on the Jesuit character of the university, in addition to collaboration amongst the various university groups and the financial wellbeing of the university.

Amongst the presidential attributes listed in the document are “a commitment to support the ideals of the Catholic, Jesuit mission… a deep understanding and appreciation for the role of faculty and what goes into excellent teaching, learning, and scholarship,” and “a focus on students with a genuine enjoyment in interacting with them and in participating in the life of the campus community.” Additionally, the profile calls for a person with a history of “significant and successful senior leadership experience in higher education.”

Steve Harris, the president of the SLU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, was appreciative of the transparency and communication in the search process thus far.

“What [the faculty expects] is the committee to take advantage of the wisdom that we collectively, the faculty, can offer… and that is precisely what is happening,” Harris said.

However, he expressed concern that the research mission of the university wasn’t given enough attention.

“We are a research university,” he said. “We should highlight that! That should be in the first sentence.”

Harris also thought the profile ought to mention shared governance and academic freedom, as well as emphasize a candidate with experience as an academic.

“Among faculty, we want… someone who knows first hand what it is to do research and what that means for a professor to be a person who’s motivated by research,” he said. “Also, I think it’s a bit odd that there’s no mention in there about a dedication to shared governance, academic freedom, that’s what brought all this to pass in the first place.”

Interim President Bill Kauffman expressed appreciation for the work of the Search Committee and the participation of the members of the university community in the process.

“It is my judgment that the views expressed during [the last month] were heard and reflected in the position profile,” Kauffman said.

Allison Walters, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, stated that the process had been a positive experience for her thus far, and expressed hopes that communication between groups would continue throughout the rest of the search.

Colin Pajda, a first-year graduate student, was very optimistic about the profile’s message.

“If the committee sticks to this document, if they find someone who fits each of [the profile’s] attributes, we will have a president that every member of the SLU community can look to for leadership and guidance,” Pajda said.

The full profile is available on SLU’s website.

The second phase of the process is expected to last until Dec. 20, 2013, which is the deadline for applications. AGB Search, in conjunction with the Search Committee, will actively recruit and converse with prospective candidates with the goal of narrowing the pool to 10 to 12 strong candidates. The third phase is expected to begin in January at which point the committee will attempt to narrowthe pool to two or three final candidates, at which point the presidential hopefuls will be publicly announced.