College names search committee

by Amelia Acosta | 5/28/12 10:00pm

On Friday, the College announced 14 members of the Dartmouth community, including trustees, alumni, current faculty members and one student representative, as members of the Presidential Search Committee that will assist Committee Chair Bill Helman '80 and Vice Chair Diana Taylor '77 in the search for the College's 18th president, according to Helman. The College also announced that Isaacson, Miller, an executive search firm, will assist in the process.

Six committee members are members of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees, including Jim Coulter '82, Denise Dupre '80, Annette Gordon-Reed '81, John Rich '80, Helman and Taylor. Chairman of the Board Stephen Mandel '78 will serve as an ex-officio member of the committee. The trustees are joined by seven Dartmouth faculty members, including Tuck School of Business professor Ron Adner, Geisel School of Medicine psychiatry professor Alan Green, biology professor Mary Lou Guerinot, environmental studies professor Anne Kapuscinski, Dean of Graduate Studies and Thayer School of Engineering professor Brian Pogue, music professor Steven Swayne and government professor William Wohlforth.

Emily Bakemeier '82, deputy provost for the arts and humanities at Yale University, Dean of Libraries Jeffrey Horrell and Student Body President Suril Kantaria '13 will also serve on the committee.

Finding committee members with "good judgment" was a priority during the selection process, according to Helman.

"There are two parts we need in every candidate," Helman said in an interview with The Dartmouth. "One is being constructive and understanding what kind of president we need, and the other is helping to translate that set of goals in the person into individual candidates, which is not always easy."

Members also needed to "represent Dartmouth well" in order to attract the best candidates for the College's top position, Helman said.

"It's likely the person we'll want will be happily employed somewhere else," he said. "The committee members have the job of making it crystal clear to that candidate why Dartmouth is such a great place and why they should commit to making Dartmouth their next career choice."

With a total of 17 members, the committee will be "small and agile" while representing a diversity of perspectives so that the "sum is greater than the parts," according to Helman.

"We wanted diversity on a bunch of different dimensions, including types of experiences and backgrounds," he said. "The one area of diversity we tried not to compromise on was excellence. We want candidates who are instructive and helpful in achieving our goal."

Helman cited the addition of a fourth faculty member from the College to match the four divisions of undergraduate academic programs the humanities, the sciences, the social sciences and interdisciplinary programs as an example of increased diversity. In the search committee for College President Jim Yong Kim, interdisciplinary programs were left without a representative, a problem Helman said was addressed by the addition of Kapuscinski, an environmental studies professor.

The committee has already begun to prioritize student opinion via open forums and emails from students, which have been helpful and productive, according to Helman.

"I hope that students will continue to provide input and feedback," Helman said. "People like to engage in different ways. Some are comfortable standing up in open forums and some aren't. We're trying to find ways for all kinds of students to get involved."

A "more formal" representation of student opinion will come from Student Assembly, according to Kantaria, who said he plans to distribute a survey to campus and solicit letters from different campus communities.

"During the last presidential search, Student Assembly had a similar survey, so we would build on that," Kantaria said. "The main question for us is for students to think about what they want to see in their next president. I plan on submitting this report as a compilation of hard data and letters from the community to tell the committee what students are really looking for."

Despite being the sole student representative on the 17-person committee, Kantaria said he anticipates he will be able to effectively advocate for student needs and is excited to work with the rest of the committee members.

"I definitely think it will be a challenge, but I see it as a team effort because the other members also have students' interests in mind," he said. "I see this as a very important position because at the end of the day, our new president will be leading an institution of higher learning with a large undergraduate focus, and it's imperative that we as students play a role in selecting our next leader."

Issacson, Miller will serve as a "search consultant" throughout the process, according to Helman.

"Issacson, Miller will assist the committee in the process of finding and selecting a next president," he said. "They have a vast network of people they've met over the years, some of which might be candidates and some of which might be references. They'll also help with research on the candidates. They'll be our partners in this."

Issacson, Miller has assisted in multiple other recent college presidential searches, including those at the University of Pennsylvania and Williams College, according to a College press release.

Membership on the committee comes with the weight of responsibility, according to Swayne, who said he was "deeply honored" by his appointment.

"As a member of the arts and humanities faculty, I feel it is my job to make sure that we all consider the place of the arts and humanities in 21st-century education," Swayne said.

The committee will meet in full "as many times as it takes to get a great president," Helman said. It will also communicate via conference calls and emails throughout the search process. Helman said that there is no deadline in place, and the search process will end when the committee finds the right candidate.

Earlier this term, however, Helman said at a Student Assembly meeting that he hopes to announce a selection for the position by the end of the calendar year.

For now, the new members will work to gather feedback and "compile, distill and analyze" input from students, faculty and alumni, Helman said.

"Our next step is to produce a new Statement on Leadership Criteria, which will be published and describe what we're looking for in a president," he said. "Another activity is that the committee will get to work on candidates. There have been a number of people proposed and a number of candidates are out there, so we'll start working on candidate identification and the leadership statement almost simultaneously."

The statement used in the search process for Dartmouth's 17th president focused on a desire to facilitate increased collaboration between the undergraduate and graduate programs at the College.

"Some of the most successful initiatives have come from broadly integrated programs that are framed around a problem area and draw on several disciplines," the leadership statement said. "The next president will have the opportunity to lead an impressive integration across boundaries that already has considerable momentum."

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