Search for Edinboro University's next president begins

Category:  News
Thursday, January 24th, 2019 at 12:26 PM

Jeremy D. Brown, 2007-2011. Julie Wollman, 2012-2016. H. Fred Walker, 2016-2018. 

Of the presidents who have helmed Edinboro University over the course of the last 11 years, none stayed longer than five. Three permanent presidents have passed through during that time, as have three in the interim position.

The search for stability in Edinboro’s top spot continues this spring.

Throughout this semester, and following the controversial exit of Walker after a piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Edinboro will carry out its newest presidential search. In an email sent out Jan. 14, Interim University President Dr. Michael Hannan confirmed that a presidential search committee has been assembled, and that the search is underway. 

“It is definitely an extremely high priority for myself and the other members of the council of trustees, to ensure that we find someone who is dedicated to the university and to the region,” said Timothy Wachter, who will serve as the president of the search committee. Wachter is a lawyer at Knox Law, and also serves on the university council of trustees.

“I know from our perspective, from the perspective of the council of trustees, we are looking specifically for someone who is going to be able to provide stability and continue to work with the university community, [and] to implement the plans that we have in order to bring the university back to where we know it can be.”

The search committee, which met for the first time Jan. 22, is composed of various university stakeholders, including: students, faculty, alumni and members of the board of trustees. It will function to communicate campus issues and needs to Witt/Kieffer, the executive search firm that will collect a list of candidates for the committee to vet. 

Wachter, along with two other members of the council of trustees who are serving on the presidential search committee, were presented a list of PASSHE-approved executive search firms and chose Witt/Kieffer to lead the current search. 

According to Edinboro University press releases, the last two presidential searches, which resulted in the hiring of Wollman and Walker, were conducted by Greenwood and Associates.  

“We narrowed down the list [provided by PASSHE] and conducted interviews with them, talked to them over the phone and looked at their recommendations. They (Witt/Kieffer) have a long history of doing searches, especially in western Pennsylvania; doing a search for a college president is one thing, and doing a search for a college president in a state system is another,” said Wachter. “We now have a firm that understands Edinboro and we don’t have to explain Edinboro to them.” 

According to Hannan, PASSHE has budgeted a total of $170,000 from the state system reserves to fund the Edinboro and Mansfield University presidential search cost. 

At times, students and faculty at other institutions have been critical of the amount of information released to campus communities over the course of a presidential search. Last year, Kent State University fielded criticism from campus community members who felt they were not given the opportunity to interact with and evaluate the candidates chosen as finalists. 

“As a public institution, our search process will be very transparent; this transparency is also required per the cited Board of Governors policy,” said Hannan in reference to questions on this topic. 

The search committee echoed these statements, with Wachter saying: “The level of transparency that we are going to give is limited to the level of transparency we are required to give. It’s necessary, when doing any personal search to have a level of transparency where you are not offending the confidence of the individuals applying for the position. I am not going to release what that individual’s name or position is until we get to an appropriate point where we are starting to do campus visits, because their employer most likely doesn’t know that they are applying.”  

In addition, the president’s office has created a page under “University Leadership,” which holds information about members of the search committee, and according to Hannan, it will be updated throughout this process with information about the search, and later this month with a description of what the committee is looking for in Edinboro’s next president.

Whoever the new leader ends up being, they’ll have issues to contend with at Edinboro, particularly concerning enrollment.

In the past 11 years, according to Edinboro University data sets, enrollment fell from 8,642 in its peak, to 6,181; retention and graduation rates fell to the second lowest in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).

The committee hopes to have a president selected by July 1 of this year. Students, faculty and staff, among others in the campus community, will have a chance to interact with finalists during their campus visits, which, according to Wachter, the committee hopes to conduct sometime close to spring break. 

Shayma Musa | edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

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