Monday, June 18, 2007

Hawkeye Presidential Search Almost There?
Some Lessons for BigU From the Search

[Full disclosure: Mr. B. is a graduate of the University of Iowa.]

Down the road from BigU is the University of Iowa, an interesting institution. Say Iowa and, aside from the usual jokes about corn, the Writer’s workshop comes to mind. They also have an excellent academic health center, a fine institution for undergrads, and a working football team. Iowa City is a nice place to live and you can buzz into Chicago easily if you are a big city type.

Iowa has had a little bit of trouble with presidents lately. At least that is one way to look at it. Thus their most recent president, Skorton, left for Cornell. Prior to that Mary Sue Coleman left them to become the president of Michigan. One might say that this is a tribute to their president picking and that they were fortunate to have people of this caliber.

But this has made staying power an issue in the present search. Which, incidentally, is the second search. The first one came up with four candidates and the Board of Regents did not like the slate and dissolved the first search committee.

Another interesting aspects of the search is its transparency. Those who claim that a search must be closed to work might look closely at this situation.
There also seems to have been a conscious decision to go outside in seeking a new president despite having, perhaps, been bitten in the past over this strategy. There is a strong inside candidate - surprise, the provost - who has a lot of internal support. He was a finalist in the first search, but not the second. So in the interest of learning something about relevant presidential searches, as well as with respect for our able competition down the road from the Iowa City Press-Citizen:

URBANDALE — The Iowa state Board of Regents adjourned today without making an announcement as to whether they have agreed on who should be the next president of the University of Iowa.

The regents were in closed session today from about 10:30 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. at their office in Urbandale. After coming out of closed session, the board quickly adjourned and made no announcement about a new president.

Individual regents were tight-lipped about the meeting. Iowa City regent Bob Downer said that he hoped the board could announce a president this week, which regent Bonnie Campbell said the president would be hired "very, very soon" without elaborating.

Prior to going into closed session, the University of Iowa presidential search committee briefly presented an eight-page report to regents. They then went into close session with search committee chair and UI Dentistry Dean David Johnsen.
Philip Furmanski appeared to be the favorite of the University of Iowa presidential search committee while the campus community ranked Furmanski and Sally Mason as the top two candidates, according to the committee's written report.

The search committee submitted to regents Charles Bantz, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis chancellor; Mark Becker, University of South Carolina provost; Furmanski, Rutgers University vice president for academic affairs; and Purdue University Provost Mason as all being qualified to be UI's 20th president.

The eight-page report, broken down by administrative experience, academic reputation, fundraising experience, responses of the campus community, external references and summary evaluation, praises all the candidates, but Furmanski in particular.

"Philip Furmanski has the experience, knowledge and academic stature to be an outstanding intellectual and administrative leader of The University of Iowa. There is every indication--from his presentation at the public forum to his interactions with individual groups to the comments of his colleagues and students at Rutgers -- that he would be a very effective president of the university," the summary evaluation stated.

The 13-person committee evaluated Furmanski high in virtually every field.

Furmanski, 60, a cancer researcher, has been at Rutgers since 2003, where he oversees academics including some health science departments and budgets for three campuses.

They credited him as an experienced, firm and effective administrator; as articulate; as understanding the importance of undergraduate education and the mission of teaching in a research institution; as a leader; and his knowledge of academic medicine and for showcasing a fertile relationship between state and his university.

The campus and external references also provided glowing reviews of Furmanski.

Mason, 57, a biologist, who has been at Purdue since 2001 after 21 years at the University of Kansas with the last six as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was noted for leadership, communication, creativity and vision, pursuing diversity initiatives, being a national leader for women and diversity in the sciences and developing strong programming that engaged her state.

However, the committee found her to be lacking in health science experience, which was seen a critical skill. Campus groups also were concerned about her awareness of problems facing health sciences campus and her ability to connect externally. Her handling of a scientific misconduct investigation at Purdue also concerned some.

The committee liked Bantz's experience as an administrator at a complex university with a medical school. The report stated he is a "polished public speaker and an experienced fundraiser." It said he had "presidential-type" experience but questioned his leadership ability.

"He clearly has the skills to be an effective external leader for the university but may require strong internal leaders to provide vision and direction for academic programs," the report stated.

Bantz, 57, a communication studies expert, has been IUPUI chancellor for four years, and before that, he was Wayne State University provost from 2000-2003. Campus responses said the institutions he's worked at significantly differ from UI, and he didn't articulate a strong vision for advancing a public research institution. References varied on his ability to handle difficult situations.

Becker, 48, the youngest of the candidates, is a biostatistician with a three-year stint as provost at the University of South Carolina following three years as dean of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

"Mark Becker is a vigorous, ambitious and bright academic leader, and a strategic thinker, who has accomplished a great deal in a relatively short administrative career," the report stated, noting he had effected substantial positive change.

The committee and some group feedback found him an ineffective communicator in some settings. Some references varied on Becker's support for the arts and humanities and his management style, accessibility and openness to input.

Upon submitting the report, the search committee requested the regents keep the report confidential until the process was over. Regent Executive Director Gary Steinke wrote in an e-mail that "I feel as though I have no choice after consulting with the (Attorney General's) Office," which he did last week and was told it is a public document.

The candidates already interviewed with regents Tuesday and Wednesday, and they appeared in campus interviews, including public forums, one candidate per day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Regents could, though it appears unlikely, wrap up the 17-month wait to find out who will succeed David Skorton, who left for Cornell University, by naming someone today.

As Mr. Spock used to say: "Interesting..." Ciao, Mr. Bonzo

No comments: