The regents leading the search for CU’s next president heard common themes as well as unique perspectives from faculty, staff and students across CU’s campuses in a series of town halls aimed at getting input on the university’s next leader.
Regents Heidi Ganahl and Irene Griego hosted the meetings at CU’s four campuses over the past couple of weeks.
“The common word we heard on every campus was passion. The CU community wants someone with passion for CU and passion for higher education,” Ganahl said. “As the regents chairing the presidential search committee, we couldn’t agree more.”
Griego said they also heard some insight the board members hadn’t considered.
“It’s clear this is a critical search for the university and we very much appreciated the engaged and thoughtful perspective from faculty, staff and students,” Griego said.
CU’s next president will succeed Bruce Benson, who told the board he intends to retire from CU in July after 11 years at the helm, making him the longest-serving CU president in 65 years.
Another common thread was ensuring that the next president understands the unique attributes of each campus while also harnessing the collective power of the CU system. Groups at each of the town halls suggested the new president should be more visible and accessible on each campus, connecting with the key constituencies of students, faculty and staff.
Similarly, CU’s president has to connect with the university’s external constituents, including alumni, donors, and business and community leaders across the state and beyond. Every group talked about the importance of a close working relationship with the Colorado Legislature, while stressing that the president needs to be political, but not partisan.
Griego and Ganahl posed the question as to whether the next president needs to have an academic background or experience outside higher education or both. The consensus was that a sound understanding of higher education, its traditions and the environment in which it operates is absolutely necessary, but a traditional academic background is not. Representatives of systemwide Faculty Council and Staff Council shared that their groups have had extensive discussions on the issue and generally reached a similar conclusion.
There was also a consensus that a familiarity with Colorado is important, but the board should also cast a wide net in its search for the next president.
The regents asked the crowds on each campus to provide one word to describe qualities or characteristics they would like to see in the next president. Responses included “bold,” “passionate,” “empathetic,” “approachable” and “accomplished.”
Griego said the sessions were quite valuable for the regents because they heard things they hadn’t expected to but also had some of their notions reinforced. Ganahl and Griego provided a synopsis of each campus session for their fellow regents.
“We want this process to be an ongoing dialogue with the university community,” Griego said. “We hope our faculty, staff and students who were unable to attend the town halls will continue to provide input as we go through the process.”
The regents set up a presidential search web site at https://www.cu.edu/presidential-search, which includes a mechanism to provide input.