Global Pandemic Endows Universities With Big Challenges in the Hunt for New Leaders in 2021
Scott A. Scanlon, Dale M. Zupsansky, Stephen Sawicki
The Hunt Scanlon Media article, "Global Pandemic Endows Universities With Big Challenges in the Hunt for New Leaders in 2021," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates on the challenges universities are facing to find executive talent. The article is excerpted below.
Leadership roles in today’s colleges and universities have become increasingly demanding and complex. Senior academic leaders must balance the needs of numerous constituents—needs that require a cross-section of skills far beyond the traditional set of scholarly and research accomplishments. Interviews with a host of recruiters for the sector reveal the special challenges of their work.
Those who lead today’s universities are CEOs of publicly scrutinized institutions with requirements to fundraise, balance budgets and satisfy numerous demands with scant resources, according to Russell Reynolds Associates. “They compete for students, for faculty and staff members, and for rankings,” the search firm said. “Perhaps unsurprisingly, the average length of tenure in these roles is decreasing, and there is a growing need to attract and retain quality talent that can adjust to the unique challenges and aspirations of each educational institution.”
According to Russell Reynolds, while the senior leaders at colleges and universities contend with these expanded challenges, there is also growing demand for professional endowment leadership at many of these institutions, as pressure from today’s capital markets makes meeting target investment returns increasingly difficult. Complicated times demand complex leaders, say recruiters who specialize in the field.
Russell Reynolds Associates’ global higher education practice is composed of a cadre of former senior university officers, tenured professors and professional university staff, along with traditional business leaders, who work together to guide search committees through an orderly, transparent and thoughtful search process to fulfill key leadership positions. The firm works collaboratively with large search committees of trustees, faculty, staff and students, balancing divergent interests while driving understanding and consensus.
Change, of course, is never easy. “Contemplating leaving one institution you love for another you may not know can be especially hard,” said Brian Casey, president of DePauw University. “I was fortunate that Russell Reynolds Associates guided me through the search with a gentle hand and provided me with information, wisdom and respect. I remain grateful for the opportunities they showed me and the help they offered me during the search and during my transition.”
Brian Mitchell, president of Bucknell University, found the executive search process “comprehensive, competent, careful,” which, he said, “enhanced the pool and brought to the university an outstanding choice in Michael Snyder as our new provost. Russell Reynolds Associates understood its role and the importance of this search to us and behaved accordingly.”
From refining job descriptions to launching and managing nationwide leadership hunts, recruiters have become trusted partners in what has become one of the fastest growing sectors seeking expert talent. Reduced state funding, rising tuition costs, soaring student debt and decreased federal research funding have all contributed to a dramatic rise in the role search firms are playing in the recruitment of university presidents and chancellors.
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