Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, July 21, 2018

Search continues for AU’s next president

More faculty input to be accepted, but role of students in the process remains undefined

Search continues for AU’s next president

President Neil Kerwin announced in March that he would retire in spring 2017. The search is currently underway for his successor. 

Following the announcement of President Neil Kerwin’s retirement in March, the search for AU’s fifteenth president is progressing, with a large focus on diversity and community input from faculty, students and staff.

The Board of Trustees released the opportunity statement last week, which lays out the role of the president and the characteristics they’re seeking in candidates. The Presidential Search Committee, in coordination with Spencer Stuart, a global executive search and consulting firm, crafted its contents.

The search will include both traditional and “non-traditional” candidates — including those from outside the U.S. or from backgrounds other than higher education, according to Jeffrey Sine, a Board of Trustees member and chair of the Search Committee.

Sine was unable to confirm how many nominations had been received so far, but said that “the applicant pool is deep, wide and diverse.”

The Faculty Senate, however, passed a resolution in May urging the committee to value academic experience.

“It is important to the faculty that we have a president who has experience in the academic environment, which is different from government and the private sectors,and knows how to motivate faculty and staff and get everyone on the same mission,” chair of the Faculty Senate Todd Eisenstadt,, said in an email.

The Faculty Senate also passed a resolution to encourage a greater inclusion of professors in the interview process of candidates, which Eisenstadt said the Board was very receptive to.

“[Jeffrey Sine] told us that he expected that this faculty ‘interview' group, to be elected by each teaching unit early in the fall semester, will be able to participate fully in the process,” Eisenstadt said.

Students, faculty, staff and alumni also had the opportunity to provide input at five listening sessions in April and when the Committee released a draft of the opportunity statement in early June.

Attendees at the listening sessions focused on maintaining AU’s institutional values as one president transitioned into the next, as well as emphasizing a commitment to diversity, fundraising and empathy, all of which were included in the position profile.

“The Search Committee does represent many constituencies, and they’ve been able to make those positions represent a lot more. The one staff member on the committee is Tiffany Speaks, who works at the Center for Diversity & Inclusion,” said Shyheim Snead, student trustee on the Board. Snead also serves as the only undergraduate student on the Search Committee.

The Search Committee has been accepting nominations for the position since at least April, and Sine said they plan to begin interviews in September. They will then recommend a short list to the Board of Trustees for final consideration, who plans to announce its selection sometime this winter.

Snead believes it is important for students to utilize all available means of involvement in the search, especially the Search Committee email, which is open for everyone to provide comments through.

"The email has been open to students, and has been used to a pretty good extent. I would still encourage people to use that medium,” Snead said.

According to Snead, comments provided through the student listening session and the search email show that students want to be involved throughout the entire process of this search.

“Oftentimes it can seem like they are trivial,” Snead said of the opportunities for students to submit comments, “but if they're not used often people who submit in small numbers can become representative of a larger group.”

news@theeagleonline.com

Clarification: A previous version of this article stated that the presidential search "will focus on “non-traditional” candidates." The search committee is in fact focusing on both traditional and non-traditional candidates. 


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