College and University Presidents: Bring on the Revolution

Where is academia headed and what are the implications for leadership? Many people are asking these questions and perhaps the most insightful answers will come from college and university presidents themselves. With that in mind, three Witt/Kieffer executive search consultants recently held confidential, one-on-one conversations with 14 sitting college and university presidents about the future of their industry.

Reinventing-Leadership-Higher-EducationThe discussions revealed trepidation that the “business model” of higher education today has…



Reimagining the Higher Education Presidential Search

By Lucy Leske, Managing Partner, Education Practice

The traditional model of selecting a new college or university president relies upon large, inclusive campus committees which represent a virtual Noah’s Ark of students, faculty, staff, and trustees. While these committees are devoted to their institution’s success, they are often unprepared to apply serious leadership evaluation tools and validate candidate strengths and weaknesses against the organization’s needs and priorities. As such, decisions on whether or…



Higher Education: The Role of Advancement in Presidential Search and Transition

Presidential transitions in higher education are times of tension and uncertainty, but also opportunity as the new leader brings fresh ideas and energy. Among the overriding issues that the campus community will be concerned or curious about include how a new president will interact with key donors, reach out to alumni, and support fundraising and marketing efforts.

Therefore, it is critical the advancement office have a voice during a presidential search, and play an integral role in ensuring a smooth…



Higher Education Executive Search: The Risk of Revealing One’s Candidacy Too Soon

The final stages of a job search for an executive are nothing short of nerve-wracking, on most every occasion. There is enough for the candidate to think about in terms of whether or not the new opportunity is the right one as a next career step. But there are perplexing issues for consideration regarding one’s current employer, too. Namely, when is the right time to reveal that you may be moving on?

In many industries the answer is simple—mum’s the…



Developing the Next Generation of Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education

By Lucy Leske and Oliver Tomlin

The role of chief diversity officer within colleges and universities has blossomed and evolved over the years. It has gone from being a primarily tactical position to a strategic one, requiring a much more multifaceted skill set than in the past. “The successful diversity leader needs negotiating, diplomatic, communication, and analytical skills in addition to educational credentials,” we



Diverse Leadership in Higher Education: Time to Get (More) Serious

Most institutions of higher education today are “very serious” about developing diversity among their top administrators, believes Witt/Kieffer senior partner Oliver Tomlin. That’s a vast improvement from the past, he says. But it doesn’t mean that schools and search committees still can’t learn a thing or two about developing diverse leadership—a recent American Council on Education (ACE) survey noted that minority representation among higher ed leadership has…



Higher Education Institutional Advancement: Finding Opportunity in Leadership Transition

Few things stress advancement and development professionals as much as turnover at the top of their organizations. In higher education institutional advancement offices, entire campaigns and carefully nurtured relationships can be dashed if the transition of a new president, provost, or dean isn’t managed smoothly or the new leader has other, unanticipated priorities. The best way to respond to the uncertainty of leadership turnover is for the chief development officer and colleagues to be proactive, and positive, says Witt/Kieffer…



Higher Education Recruitment: 10 Mistakes Search Committees Make

Anyone who’s served on an academic search committee has his or her favorite horror story about candidate missteps—there was the aspiring dean who elegantly fudged the credentials on her curriculum vitae or the presidential hopeful who sported a neon-orange tie. Dennis Barden, senior vice president and consultant in our Higher Education practice, recently outlined for the Chronicle of Higher Education some of the



College Athletic Director Search: Too Fast and Furious?

People in the world of sports have a natural inclination to get to the finish line as soon as possible. This often includes how they look for coaches and leaders. When a college or university conducts an athletic director search, for example, alums and stakeholders inevitably call for the process to be sped up. “We need someone in place,” they say, whether to protect the institution’s reputation or to ensure continuity in fundraising.

The problem is, says

Higher Education Recruitment: The Proactive Approach to Hiring a President

The recent spate of high-profile dismissals of college and university presidents indicates a fundamental disconnect between higher education leaders and their boards. In many cases, the issues creating friction could have been vetted and resolved when the president was first brought on board, believes John Thornburgh, co-leader of our Higher Education practice.

Much of the guesswork can be taken out of presidential selection and higher education recruitment by making both qualitative and quantitative improvements…