In what turned out to be a timely discussion at its retreat July 11-13 in Tabernash, the University of Colorado Board of Regents heard from a panel of presidential search consultants about the national marketplace for university leaders and insight into search processes.
At the time of the discussion, CU President Bruce Benson had not announced his retirement, which he did July 18.
The three search consultants talked about candidate types, timelines, search committees and the national landscape for presidential searches.
The panelists – Shelly Weiss Storbeck of Storbeck/Pimental & Associates, Jennifer Biehn of Odgers-Berntdson and Michael Mitchel of Korn Ferry – all have conducted searches for presidents and chancellors, including within CU. Kathy Nesbitt, vice president for employee and information services, facilitated the conversation.
The regents have spent more than a year refining the presidential job description and qualities they would like to see in CU’s next leader. The groundwork will prove beneficial after Benson’s announcement last week.
“As an institution, CU is a community leader,” Biehn said. “When you get a profile of what you’re looking for, that person is out there.”
Storbeck said the Board of Regents has a key role beyond selecting the next president.
“The board needs strong representation on the committee,” she said. “The committee has to sell, and they have to sell CU.”
She added that non-traditional presidents, non-academics such as Benson and Hank Brown before him, account for 18 percent of presidents at public and private institutions. She added that 30 percent of presidents and chancellors are women and 17 percent are people of color.
Nesbitt said CU’s structure – a system with four campuses – also will play a role in the kind of leader it attracts.
Mitchel said the board needs to gaze into the future when considering candidates.
“You have to ask, ‘’Where do you want the university to be three, five, 10 years from now? What’s the culture you want?’”
The panelists agreed that it is imperative that the board have a sound idea of what they want the candidate to achieve and how that person can fulfill the university’s vision.
With Benson’s announcement last week, the process will take on a heightened significance. The regents are expected to meet in the coming weeks to start the process, although a meeting date has not been set. Benson indicated he intends to retire in July 2019.