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UI Presidential Search Consultants 'Inundated' With Interest In The Position

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Consultants assisting with the search for the next president of the University of Iowa say they've been "inundated" with interest in the position.

Consultants helping with the search process for the next president of the University of Iowa say they’ve been “inundated” with interest in the position. The search for the university’s next president is well underway, after current President Bruce Harreld announced last October he plans to retire as soon as a replacement is found.

In a meeting Wednesday of the UI’s presidential search committee, consultants from the firm AGB Search told committee members that the position is generating a lot of interest and attracting “high quality candidates."

“We have absolutely been inundated every day with interest,” said Rod McDavis, Managing Principal at AGB Search. “I think that this committee needs to know that the University of Iowa is attracting high quality candidates already. Now we still have a lot to do, but I want you to know that the initial response has been very, very positive.”

Janice Fitzgerald of AGB Search said advertisements for the position have “already invited considerable attention and interest."

“And we have been responding to these individuals,” she said, “as well as recruiting individuals to take a look at the position.”

Ads are being placed across multiple higher education journals and associations, including those representing women, people of color, Indigenous and LGBTQ professionals in the field.

At this stage of the search process, the consulting firm is collecting applications from interested individuals, fielding their questions, and walking candidates through the university’s mission and goals.

“We’re spending a lot of time on the telephone with these folks,” McDavis said. “Typically, it’s about three phone calls. The first phone call is kind of, ‘ok, let’s talk a little about what the University of Iowa is looking for’. We have that conversation. The second conversation is, they go out on your website. They do some Google searches. They’ve done some research. They come back. They have more questions. We get a little deeper into that dialogue. And about the third conversations is the point at which they make commitments.”

In contrast to other searches, McDavis says candidates are noticeably eager to commit to applying.

“With a lot of our first phone calls, folks are already making a commitment that they’re going to be an applicant for the University of Iowa presidency,” he said. “That’s a good sign.”

According to the “Leadership Profile” posted to the UI’s presidential search website, among the attributes the university is looking for is a “[r]ecord of success as an educator, scholar, and servant leader in the academic enterprise”.

Harreld, the outgoing president, faced considerable criticism from members of the UI community for his lack of administrative experience in academia. Faculty members at the university took a no confidence vote in the state’s Board of Regents following their appointment of Harreld, who was greeted by protests on his first day on the job.

AGB Search’s Jim McCormick told committee members Wednesday that a number of applicants are doing their own research on the controversies of the past search process.

“They’re aware of the last search, what happened and so on. They’ve already done their homework,” McCormick said. “I don’t anticipate any situation like happened the last time to occur this time.”

Search committee members are slated to get access to candidates’ documents after the application window closes in mid-March. The consulting team said that anyone who submits a full and complete application will be considered.

In the meantime, committee members will begin drafting questions for prospective candidates based on their own background and expertise, and the feedback they’ve received through public forums with the university’s students, faculty, staff and community members. Search committee co-chair John Keller says common issues have emerged, including diversity, equity and inclusion.

“There are some common themes that are…that have come forward,” Kelly said, “things like DEI, communication skills, leadership philosophies, vision for higher ed, collaborative styles and their views on shared governance kinds of perspectives.”

Under the current timeline, the search committee is slated to pick finalists by early April and select the university’s next president by the end of that month.