Over the summer, members of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents began the search for the new NU president.
Following former NU president Hank Bounds’s resignation in March, the Board of Regents inducted interim president Susan Fritz to fulfill Bounds’ responsibilities for the remainder of the year. Additionally, regents contracted AGB Search to find potential candidates from across the country and formed the President Search Advisory Committee to review applications.
Committee chair Jim Pillen said regents spent weeks attempting to pick a search firm before deciding on AGB Search, which is currently looking for applicants.
“[T]his is what they do for a living,” he said. “They help institutions across the country find people for leadership roles. Search firms would be the same thing we do in business when we are in need of leadership that isn’t within your organization.”
According to Pillen, the committee will host listening sessions in order to hear the public’s opinions about the search for a new president. Then, the committee members will have private meetings to review applications and announce a final candidate around Nov. 1.
Only the final candidate will be announced in order to respect the privacy of the applicants, Pillen said. The public will vet the final candidate for 30 days, so they can potentially begin their term by the start of the spring 2020 semester.
“We have aggressive goals on timelines we would like to get accomplished this fall, by Nov. 1,” he said. “However, the most important thing is that we are collaborative and we are unanimous and that we find … the right fit. We’re not going to compromise that over time, so if it takes longer, it takes longer.”
According to the pillars, the committee will look for a proven leader who prioritizes academics and will unite all four NU campuses. The final candidate should also be able to think strategically, work with Nebraska’s government and raise money for the NU system. The remaining pillars focus on athletics, viewing NU as a global leader and valuing diversity and inclusion.
The Board of Regents appointed 23 members to the search committee from a list of over 200 publically nominated individuals representing NU regents, faculty, staff, students and leaders involved in Nebraskan business, industry and non-profit work.
Board of Regents chairman Tim Clare led the team that chose the committee’s members and said he and other regents wanted to create a well-rounded committee. Specifically, the committee includes people with backgrounds in agriculture, business and philanthropy who have personal connections to NU.
“Unfortunately, it’s not feasible to have a 1.9 million-person, [Nebraska’s population], selection committee and so you [have to] try and whittlethat down” Clare said, “ ... because each person represents different constituent groups, and it was imperative that each one of the constituent groups are represented in this process.”
During the June Board of Regents’ meeting, University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor of biological sciences David Woodman voiced opposition to the search committee. He said the committee violates NU bylaws due to inadequate representation of faculty and staff.
Pillen and Clare both said they understood the concern but believe the committee does have enough faculty representation on the board.
“We talked about it as a board, and we felt we’ve got good representation for [the] faculty constituency, as well as other constituencies,” Clare said. “And we feel like the people who we’ve got can represent faculty in an adequate capacity.”
While the committee continues its search, Fritz said she will focus on her job and supporting NU students.
“I think the University of Nebraska presidency is one of the best job opportunities in higher education, and I will do everything I can to help us maintain our momentum so that the next president assumes leadership of a university that is as strong then as it is today,” Fritz said in a statement.
The committee will host listening sessions at all four NU campuses, including one at UNL from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Pillen said the public’s opinion is important in the decision-making process, and he encourages community members to attend.
“It’s really important that we have faculty and that all stakeholders are engaged,” he said. “Our faculty and our students make our university, and they need to have a voice, and they need to be a part of the process. That’s what the goal of these listening sessions certainly are.”