UNC not alone in search for a new leader
Six large public universities are searching for new presidents at the same time the University is conducting its chancellor search.
UNC is one of 13 public universities in the Association of American Universities that has lost its president in the past 18 months.
AAU spokesman Barry Toiv said these universities might be considering the same candidates.
“There are certain individuals in demand,” Toiv said. “But competition doesn’t always make it harder to find someone — it will always be a painstaking process.”
Wade Hargrove, chairman of the UNC Board of Trustees and of the University’s chancellor search committee, said competition from other universities could be a challenge.
“It certainly is an issue,” Hargrove said. “But to what extent, it’s difficult to calibrate right now.”
Jan Greenwood, president of the executive search firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates Inc., said competition is more likely to occur among similar universities.
The University has not yet chosen a search firm.
“AAU members could be competitors,” Greenwood said, “or if they are both flagship universities.”
Flagship universities such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Florida are searching for new presidents this year.
Greenwood, whose firm has helped 1,000 institutions in their searches, said U.S. News & World Report college rankings also are a factor in determining who is competitive.
UNC is ranked by the publication as the 30th best college in the nation. UC Berkeley is ranked 21st and UW-Madison is 41st.
Hargrove said the search firm UNC hires will answer questions about competition for desirable candidates.
“The search firms will give us a sense of competition — they certainly are in a better position to know than I am,” he said.
Competition is not the only potential hurdle for universities. Candidates also consider the pressures that caused leaders to resign in the first place.
The University of Nevada, Reno struggled to attract a candidate due to cuts to higher education funding — not competition with other public universities, spokeswoman Jane Tors said.
“That was the challenge we had — are you recruiting a president with stable funding? Or more budget cuts?” Tors said. “Public universities are struggling with this.”
Toiv said the enormous pressures on university leaders have led to the recent unusual spike in resignations.
“There are financial pressures, caused in large part by reduction in state support for public universities,” he said. “There are political pressures by political leaders who are not committed to public higher education.”
The UNC system absorbed a state funding cut of $414 million, or 15.6 percent, in 2011-12, though the N.C. General Assembly restored about $24 million in adjustments to the system’s budget this summer.
The pressures of the search can be challenging, said Keith Sterling, spokesman for the University of Utah.
Utah dealt with competition from other public universities when it searched for a new president last year, he said.
“For highly desirable candidates, there’s always a risk that they’ll receive multiple offers,” he said.
Sterling said the university worked to distinguish itself from its competitors.
“It’s all about marketing yourself,” he said. “If we do a good job with branding, candidates may want to come here if there is an opening.”
Hargrove said UNC’s reputation will attract some of the nation’s best leaders to the job.
“The University’s record of achievement speaks for itself,” he said.
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