With the University of Wyoming presidential search picking up steam, faculty, staff, students and members of the public are discussing what’s needed in a new leader.
Three members of the presidential search committee and Alberto Pimentel, lead consultant with the search firm Storbeck/Pimentel, listened to opinions shared by those who attended the meeting Monday morning.
The dozen faculty members who came spent more than an hour explaining to Pimentel and the other search committee members — UW Trustee Mike Massie, physical plant specialist Mark Gunnerson, and graduate student Noah Hull — what makes the university unique.
UW is unique in that it is the only university in the state. This means it is meant to educate people across the state and not just elite students, said Marianne Kamp, associate professor of history.
“The goal has never been to educate only the best and the brightest — it is to educate everyone,” she said. “I see this as an asset, but we have to have a leader that sees this as an asset and part of the vision and part of the goal.”
A candidate’s background was perhaps the top discussion point of the meeting, with most attending faculty agreeing some experience in academia is needed.
While a person with a business background could be considered, some connection to working with higher education should be required, they said.
One faculty member cited other universities that hired a strictly business professional as a president and how badly it worked out — the university was run as a business meant to maximize money rather than to educate students and provide research, he said.
Pimentel addressed the group’s concern about a business background, explaining past experience when working with “non-traditional candidates” — people outside of academia. They normally fall into two groups, he said.
“… in whatever they were doing, the person achieved a phenomenal amount of success in that field, and while they were doing it, they had some attachment to higher education — in other words, they served on foundation boards, the board of trustees,” he said. “Number two, they had almost undoubtedly have had some connection with the university. They know the issues — they capture the value system.”
A new president’s knowledge of any faculty and staff recruitment and retention problems was said to be of top importance. Stagnant salaries caused some faculty loses over the past five years, said Tami Hert, librarian.
“The faculty and staff rate of resignations is going to continue to accelerate,” she said. “I think this is a critical issue for the next president.”
A president’s priority should be the university, but having a good relationship with the UW Board of Trustees, Wyoming Legislature and UW Foundation is also essential, attending faculty said.
Positives about the state and city were mentioned. Great outdoor activities, a good K-12 school system and having a state university in a relatively small city were seen by some faculty members as aspects to entice possible recruits to UW.
“We need someone who understands the diversity of the culture in Wyoming,” Hert said. “We have relationships with the people of Wyoming, not just the legislators or other academic institutions. We need to listen to the people as well.”
Pimentel also said the first search committee — tasked with analyzing the entire pool of candidates — could pass the names of the best candidates to the second committee in late October, but only if a strong pool of candidates is available.
“There’s absolutely no value whatsoever to move quickly just to say we completed the process, because the end result doesn’t get you what you want,” he said.
Moving quickly is recommended because a candidate could start shopping around for other job offers or because another search firm could entice them to a job elsewhere, Pimentel said.
Meetings for staff and students followed the morning meeting, while a statewide video outreach meeting was hosted Monday night in Casper. Pimentel will meet with UW deans, directors, department heads and the Executive Council along with a second scheduled faculty meeting from 1-2 p.m. today in Room 506 of the Coe Library.