President Search Q&A
By Cody Byre
Sarah Peterson is the Search Committee Chair and Spokesperson for the Disappearing Task Force (DTF) in charge of conducting the search for a new president to replace Les Purce when he retires at the end of this year. The Disappearing Task Force is made up of representatives from the board of trustees, faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Evergreen has also hired an outside consulting firm to aid with the outreach to potential presidential candidates.
What stage of the search are we at currently?
We are sitting back, doing the recruiting process. One major component of that is that the consultants are doing their work. One reason we hired them is that they have constant contact to the higher education community at large. Their job at this point is to be making sure that people know about this appointment and talking to people who are potentially interested.
John Carmichael, the presidents assistant, is making sure that all alums know that their networks are important to identifying potential candidates.
Another step in this is that when I do the update, I will be once again encouraging people to consider their own networks and their own ideas about who to nominate. Because certainly we know better than anybody what kinds of candidates might be really great for us. So on one hand, the search consultants are totally clued into who we are and what we are interested in, on the other hand, the alums would be an example of a group of people who would be out in the world who would understand a lot about the institution.
What comes next?
On Nov. 21, we have a meeting of the DTF with the consultants, where we for the first time will gain access to the database that has the applicants, and start the process of making sure that we are on the same page in terms of how we are scoring and accessing the applications.
Dec. 1 will be the soft deadline for applications. What that means is if you apply after Dec. 1 you are not guaranteed that we will look at your application, but everything that comes in by Dec. 1 will get full consideration. So thats often used as a way to not set a complete closure on applications until you are sure you are happy with your pool.
What are your thoughts on the search so far?
It is very smooth so far. We put some extra effort into the amount of consultation when we were creating the profile and I feel as though that was very helpful.
I really appreciate the professionalism of the search firm in terms of making our job as the DTF much simpler and clearer than if we were doing this search internally. It’s been a long time since we’ve done a presidential search, and there isn’t as much institutional memory as there would be if it had been a shorter period of time. Frankly, the external landscape has changed in terms of the use of search firms and their ability to get the word out and recruit compared to what me might be able to do institutionally.
We’re pretty interested in our own work and are not famous for being highly connected to a lot of higher ed organizations. I think that they are a good compliment to our communities efforts to recruit.
What should the students know?
If students have time to look at the leadership agenda, they would be well informed about things that the board of trustees, faculty, alums, students, have come up with as high priority questions and agendas for any of the candidates. Similarly, if you look at the list of expectations, then students would have a really good idea about what we say that we want.
So when the candidates come to campus, it’s a good basis upon which to start judgement, and then you can add the specifics of what you know as a student here, what you think the real issues are the person really needs to know about and address.
The forum is an opportunity to ask questions that students feel are urgent. Every individual and group on campus has slightly different priorities, and the student voice needs to be there to represent that. We have great student representatives, but we all want to hear what students have to say.
What issues will the new president be expected to address?
Strengthening retention, linked to the next issue of increasing enrollment; we need to keep the institution fully enrolled in order not to get ourselves into any budget cutting situations, particularly considering reductions in state support. The question about enrollment is a problem for many institutions, it’s not just Evergreen, so that is something we would expect most candidates to be pretty well informed about.
Continuing to look at how student learning and the quality of life for students impacts retention is an ongoing concern of everybody.
Strengthening external relations is one that points to the fact that we have wonderful external relations of various kinds. We need to find someone who would continue our strong relationship with the legislature, tribal entities, which is hugely important to our strong native american studies programs, and we could greatly increase our interaction and relationship with the city, both as a community and as a governmental structure.