Isaacson, Miller holds launch meeting with presidential search committee

Photo by John Reecer/WKU Herald 

John Reecer

A launch meeting was held this afternoon between the search committee for WKU’s next president and representatives from the Isaacson, Miller search firm.

In the meeting a summary of the charge of the search committee was given along with the responsibilities of the search firm and the search committee.

An overview of the search process was also given along with a discussion of position attributes of the presidential position at WKU. Challenges facing the university’s next president were also discussed.

“Part of our charge, and the part we will be engaged in over the next several months, will be developing what’s known as a position profile,” Bale said. “We will be doing that in the context of an intuitional review to try to determine just what sort of visionary we are looking for and need. Also, part of the charge was to try and narrow a list of candidates to three or five individuals by December 1 of this year.”

Michael Baer, vice president at Isaacson, Miller, made it a point during the meeting to describe to the search committee the role that the search firm will have in the search process.

“We see this as a partnership,” Baer said. “We will share with the search committee our information about everybody that we have contacted whether they are a source or whether they have became a prospect.”

Baer said they were committed to not eliminating anyone without the consent of the search committee and are happy to give their advice when asked. 

Bale agreed with Baer that the search committee will be making the final decision as he said the committee “owns this process.”

Isaacson and Miller was first founded in 1982 and that the firm is based in Boston with offices also located in Washington D.C. and San Francisco, according to Baer.

Baer has been with the firm for 11 years and spent his first 22 years employed at the University of Kentucky as a political scientist, department chair and dean of arts and sciences.

“I am very familiar with the state,” Baer said.  “I’ve been at every public institution at the state excluding some of the technical colleges.”

Joining Baer from Isaacson, Miller was Daniel Rodas and Jeff Kessner. Rodas is also vice president along with Baer and Kessner is an associate with the firm.

The three confirmed they have recently been meeting with stakeholders of the university, and people around Bowling Green, so they can have a good understanding of the culture of the campus and the desire of the campus for its next president.

The goal of the members of the search firm so far has been to create a position profile so that potential candidates can understand what the search committee is looking for.

“The position profile plays a role in helping all of us to narrow down the pool of the group of people that will be seriously considered,” Baer said. “Once we develop our profile, we begin to get on the phone and identify individuals and begin to learn more and more about them.

Bale said that to be president of a university in today’s era may be considered an impossible job, and that possibly a candidate that has all the ideal characteristics might not exist.

“Hopefully the position profile that we develop will allow us to discern and find the very best person that we can,” Bale said.

Baer was able to provide a timeline of upcoming meetings up until Dec. 1 where the field of candidates will be cut down to three to five people.

“We are looking at the next committee meeting on the week of September 26,” Baer said. “We are looking for a second presentation of candidates, which would take place on the week of Nov. 7.

Bale said it was important for people to understand that they will be taking their time in order to carefully consider attributes they are looking for in the next president.

“Between now and when school starts in the fall I anticipate that there will be a number of our stakeholder meetings that we will have with people who have a strong desire in WKU to find the best person for this university,” Bale said.   

Before the meeting went into closed session, so the search committee and the search firm could discuss potential candidates for the position, the search committee gave their attributes they want to see in the next president.

“We don’t need a person who is going to revitalize the campus – it’s already been done,” James Meyer, member of the search committee, said. “We need someone to fine tune what is already there.”

Meyer also said the university might not need another Gary Ransdell, but WKU needs a leader that will focus on the long-term goals of the school.

Cynthia Harris, current Board of Regents secretary and member of the search committee, said that the university struggles financially due to recent budget cuts. As such, she wants to see a candidate who can handle these cuts. 

“We have got to figure out how we are going to be able to operate without shifting too much of the financial burden to the kids. A person who could figure out how to do that is who I want.”