Finalists for chancellor post expected to be determined in next few months

By William Perkins

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The search to find the next chancellor of the University of Massachusetts has begun in earnest, but it will take a few months until a core pool of applicants for the post will be fully developed.

That’s what Lucy Leske, a vice president at Witt/Kieffer, the search firm leading the effort in finding applicants for the position, reported last Friday to members of the committee charged with searching for candidates to assume the role.

“We’ve already started developing a pool,” said Leske, who noted that she had phone appointments with potential candidates scheduled for this week.

But, Leske noted, it likely won’t be until next February until candidates that seek to assume the post – which will be vacated by current Chancellor Robert Holub, who will depart by the end of next July – will be interviewed by committee members. She said that’s because members of the search committee won’t be given a preliminary review of the applicant pool until a meeting in mid-December, and then will get a more full review of the pool at a meeting at the end of January.

The search firm, though, has written up an advertisement for the position and will run ads in several online education publications beginning Nov. 10 – in addition to running an ad in the Nov. 18 print edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, she noted. And while some search committee members had requested at a prior meeting that ads also run in The Boston Globe and The New York Times, Leske said that ads in those publications were determined to be too pricey and said that they would not yield a core group of qualified applicants.

But at the end of the process, Leske said she expects about 75 to 100 people to apply for the position – some of whom will be deemed more qualified than others. She said that she and John Thornburgh – another vice president at Witt/Kieffer, who is heading up the search efforts at UMass along with her – will also try to recruit individual qualified applicants for the role, in addition to placing ads for the position in various publications during the search process.

Several members of the search committee at last Friday’s meeting, furthermore, gave their input on what topics they felt should be touched upon during the process – ranging from what the diversity of the applicant pool should be to what stylistic issues, when compared to previous searches, may arise this time.

One of the search committee members, Jean MacCormack, the outgoing chancellor of UMass Dartmouth, said that next chancellor of the Amherst campus should be someone who chooses to lead the whole UMass system, instead of fighting it – something that she said she felt past leaders of the campus did.

“We need to believe the leader will accomplish these things, and engage us in the accomplishments,” added MacCormack. “No one person can do it – it’s a big campus.”

The meeting last Friday occurred on the heels of a number of forums, which were held last Thursday and Friday, with members of the community and student and faculty body in which they talked about what qualities they would like to see in the school’s next chancellor.

Committee Chairman Phil Johnston, who’s also on the UMass Board of Trustees, said he came out of the forums with six themes that he gauged those in the meetings were seeking during the search for the next leader – ranging from a concentration on diversity in the search to the ability of the next leader to focus on the school’s capital needs and be a strong fund-raiser.

Johnston also said that he gauged that people want “someone with an open personality.”

Additionally, committee member Joe Bartolomeo, who’s the chairman of the English department at UMass, said that one mantra hammered in at the forums dealt with the ability of the next chancellor to possess “emotional intelligence” when leading the campus.

And committee member Zac Broughton, who is also a senator in the undergraduate Student Government Association, said that a message that he brought home from many of the students that spoke at the forum is that they want the next chancellor to be someone who can weigh what effects the decision he or she makes will have on students before making them.

Elsewhere, committee members at last Friday’s meeting discussed a questionnaire that members of the campus community can submit to the search firm to give input and feedback on what characteristics the next chancellor should have and how the next leader should address problems facing the campus. And they also discussed a leadership profile – which will describe what leadership qualities the next chancellor should have – that will be developed by a subcommittee and, members said, will be crucial in the search.

The committee will hold its next full meeting on campus Nov. 21.

William Perkins can be reached at [email protected]