The candidate search committeee's meeting schedule and the minutes from its meetings are public information provided by the University's Board of Trustees.
Minutes for Tuesday, April 1, 2008, 5:05 p.m.
I. Report from Dr. R. William Funk: Chairman Loadholt called on Dr. Funk who thanked the committee for the opportunity to assist them in the process of recruiting a new president for the University of South Carolina.
Dr. Funk described for the committee the various stages of a presidential candidate search. He emphasized that they were essentially launching the search that day. During the next 8-10 weeks, the goal will be to generate a pool of "the very best" candidates interested in the position. He stressed the importance of not hastening this vital stage while noting that there was a certain cadence to the search process. The better candidates are not even considering a job change currently; the better candidates will also request additional information before they express valid interest. Therefore, during this timeframe, Dr. Funk will be the proactive agent in an effort to entice various individuals to become active candidates for this position.
Announcements of the position have been placed in all of the appropriate higher education publications; occasionally this venue will produce viable applicants. Also encouraged are suggestions and nominations from the University family and community.
Dr. Funk explained that his firm has a proprietary mailing list of approximately 600 individuals who are considered higher education leaders. They have received a letter from him informing them of this search and asking them for their best recommendations; included on the list are most of the current sitting presidents. Correspondence has also been conducted with the major higher education associations in the country (i.e., The American Council on Education, AAU, CIC) asking their leadership to offer their best thoughts.
In addition, his company will conduct extensive research targeting the best people who match those qualities and characteristics the committee is seeking in the next president; it was anticipated that 30-40 individuals will be identified who will agree to enter the pool. Dr. Funk indicated that reluctant candidates may need encouragement from the committee chairman or various other members who have a more immediate connection with the institution.
Dr. Funk further noted that within the past 10 years the size of the active candidate pool for major public institutions has decreased. He believed that competition for talent, individuals focusing on one particular search and the realization that certain requirements and expertise are necessary to be a university president have affected that figure.
Following the completion of this stage, the committee will distill the pool to a "short list" (between 10-15 people). At this juncture, members will be provided a password-protected Web site to access every candidate's file (resumes, letters of introduction, references, LexisNexis reports). In preparation for the next meeting, most likely at the beginning of June, they will be asked to review all of the candidates and generate their individual lists of the top 6-8 choices. Typically, 4-5 of the candidates will appear on all of the lists; 2-4 will appear on a majority; and others will most likely be supported by 1 or 2 committee members.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the committee should have selected a list of 10-15 individuals whom they have agreed upon to move forward in the process. Those selected will then begin to receive closer scrutiny and due diligence; references will be requested, many of whom will most likely provide valuable information for evaluative purposes. Dr. Funk's organization will be conducting LexisNexis reports for the previous 10 years; Google background reports; and gathering non-invasive information which is a matter of public record.
On the basis of reference calls and background checks, the committee should be able to narrow the "short list" of 10-15 candidates to a group of approximately 8 whom they will invite to be interviewed confidentially and most likely off-site. Dr. Funk noted that face-to-face interviews of approximately 1½ hours each during a two-day timeframe will provide an immediate sense of who these individuals are. They will be asked to respond to a standard list of questions with the opportunity for follow-up questions.
By the end of those two days, based on the chemistry the committee detects with the candidates and the quality of their answers, the committee will begin to have an idea of the best 3-4 candidates.
At this point, as tentative candidates, they will be asked if the committee can perform non-directed referencing and if they will sign a release form for credit litigation and criminal background checks. Assuming that the information is of the highest level, these candidates will be invited as finalists to visit the campus. Dr. Funk cautioned that the reality of "going public" may cause candidates to withdraw. The finalists will meet with the various constituent groups as well as community and civic leaders and will be given a tour of Columbia and the University. A feedback mechanism will provide information to the Board of Trustees about the candidates; ultimately, they will select the president.
Responding to Mr. Smith's question about the nature of information to send to these individuals, Dr. Funk indicated that there is a correlation between the strength of the candidate and the information they require before they commit. Those packages should include catalogs, a strategic plan, the most recent accreditation self-study report, marketing brochures, summary of the budget; this information will be disseminated to that group of individuals who are invited for interviews. To attract candidates into the pool additional materials will be sent; committee members will also be asked to telephone various individuals in order to personally encourage them to be a part of the pool. Dr. Funk believed that the University has available a substantive and impressive core of information to share. Secretary Stepp advised that he is in the process of creating a summary of the present status of Board goals.
Dr. Funk also reviewed those questions candidates will pose to him as the recruiter and ultimately to the search committee if given the opportunity to meet with them. They included: (1) why is the position vacant?; (2) what does the Board want in the next president?; (3) what are the financial resources available to the University and what is the funding climate within the state to achieve those goals and objectives as outlined in the strategic plan?; (4) questions about the nature of the Board of Trustees; (5) questions about the strengths of the immediate staff. He suggested that the committee consider the process through the eyes of the candidate because each individual has unique concerns about stepping into a new role.
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