Regents gathering wide-ranging input during search for next president

Campus forums this week and next among many avenues for feedback
By Staff

The University of Colorado Board of Regents began holding on-campus forums this week to hear from faculty, staff and students about the qualities they want in CU’s next president, continuing efforts to solicit input from stakeholders about the search.

The first two forums were at UCCS and CU Boulder on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, to hear from the university community. The slate of open forums for the university community resumes today with system administration via Zoom and concludes next Wednesday in person and livestreamed with CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus (see the schedule here).

The forums are part of the regents’ efforts to meet with many different and diverse groups that have a stake in a successful presidential search. This includes hosting public meetings with traditional campus stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, parents, donors, friends and supporters of the university – as well as external groups that represent the range of diversity in our state.

Regent Lesley Smith
Regent Lesley Smith

“I know this is a really important decision and it affects all of you, all of us and our state,” said Regent Lesley Smith, who is chairing the search committee, at Tuesday’s forum at CU Boulder. “I appreciate your input.”

Smith told audience members at the forums that the regents are committed to a transparent and inclusive process, emphasizing input from university stakeholders. She said there will be a special meeting of the Board of Regents on Nov. 18, where regents will choose members of the search committee.

Smith said regents will work with a soon-to-be-announced search firm to finalize a formal job description in December, which also is when the search committee will first meet. She expects the search firm to begin recruiting candidates in January.

At the forums, the board heard from many members of the community who offered comments on a range of topics. Several comments and questions reflected a desire for a diverse pool of candidates, a commitment to equity and the importance of a transparent search process.

Comments also focused on wanting candidates who understood Colorado and a desire for a president capable of working toward increased state funding for CU and higher education across the state.

Regent liana Spiegel
Regent liana Spiegel

Smith and Regent Ilana Spiegel appeared at the Monday forum at UCCSS. They were joined Tuesday at CU Boulder’s forum by Board Chair Jack Kroll and Regent Callie Rennison.

“This is among the board’s highest responsibilities, and we are committed to finding the best candidate,” Kroll said. “The board is looking for a thought leader and champion for higher education who can advance the university and Colorado.”

Regent Jack Kroll
Regent Jack Kroll

Smith said CU’s presidential search is taking place while about a dozen major public universities across the country also are seeking presidents.

“It’s going to be competitive,” Smith said. “But … the University of Colorado is very strong because of its research, its location, and even though funding is poor, such a high level of expertise in research, medicine and so forth.”

Participants at both forums asked whether the board expects to name a sole finalist or multiple finalists for president; Smith said the decision has yet to be made. She said she has heard good arguments on each side of this debate and that the board will consider all factors before coming to a decision.

Beginning with August’s Faculty Council meeting, members of the Board of Regents have collected input and shared their perspectives on the presidential search with governance groups across the system, including faculty assemblies, staff councils and student governments. More meetings are scheduled through December; click here for more information.

Regents also have sought input on CU’s next president from many community leaders and stakeholder groups across Colorado, including underrepresented minority groups, members of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, state lawmakers and the business community. Cortez, Durango, Fort Morgan, Pueblo and Sterling are among the locations regents have visited so far, with a Grand Junction trip yet to come.

Smith on Monday stressed that members of the university community still have multiple channels for providing input during the search process.

Regents encouraged stakeholders who would like to share their thoughts and ask questions to reach out to individual regents at their website or fill out the form at the Presidential Search website.