By Thy Vo
Students gathered for a focus group with representatives from the Presidential Search Committee and the search firm Storbeck/Pimentel in the DC Sunken Lounge last Thursday, the first part of the process to select Haverford’s 14th president by July of next year. Consultant Shelly Storbeck, committee co-chairs Garry Jenkins ’92 and Jonathan Evans ’77, and student representatives Franklyn Cantor ’12 and Gemma Donofrio ’12, fielded questions and took suggestions for what qualities students would like to see in the candidates.
Storbeck/Pimentel and Associates, described as “a minority- and woman-owned higher education and not-for-profit executive search firm” on its website, led the search for the new head librarian last year, and has worked with a number of elite liberal arts colleges, including both Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore Colleges. Storbeck received her M.A. from Bryn Mawr and worked at Haverford as Executive Assistant to President Robert Stevens.
Of the dozen students present for the discussion, many emphasized the need for a candidate familiar with Haverford’s culture of student self-governance and consensus-based decision-making, rather than an impressive resume.
“I think we really do need a president who is going to be a uniter, who is going to bring all these communities together, and who is really going to connect with the students,” said Ben Wohl ’14. He echoed the common desires for the committee to work to incorporate students into the decision-making process and for the new president maintain weekly open office hours. Wohl also believes the new president should have a track record of fundraising, and be able to “reach out to alumni and have that face they want to give money to.”
Unlike previous years, where members of the community had opportunities to meet and vet candidates in person, Jenkins says all candidates will remain confidential throughout the duration of this selection process. “Often times [candidates] are in jobs that they already have, and aren’t able to let their employer know they might want to be somewhere else,” Jenkins said, pointing out Rebecca Chopp, who left her job as president of Colgate College to assume the role at Swarthmore in 2009. Jenkins says there is a shift away from open candidate meetings among higher education institutions in general. “The reality is we don’t think it’d work, to be able to attract the best candidates.”
In addition to open meetings with faculty, students and staff, the committee will have open office hours every Wednesday from 10 to 11 pm at the Coop. The search committee also maintains a website, accessible through the College’s home page, where community members can submit feedback, get updates on the process, and eventually nominate candidates.
“The most important thing is we get the best person, and we’ll do it for as long as it takes,” Jenkins said. “We aren’t going to sacrifice quality in order to meet an artificial deadline.” According to Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Richard Wynn, the last search process cost around $300,000, the most expensive cost being fees to the search firm itself. Many committee members paid for their own travel expenses when they could.
Representatives on the Search Committee were nominated by members of each key constituency. Of the 19 members, nine are members of the Board, two are students, two are Corporation members, four are faculty, two are staff and one is a representative from Bryn Mawr. Eight of the seats are held by women.
Violet Brown, who is Senior Executive Administrator and is tasked with overseeing the entire process, says the college is on track to have a president in place by July 1, 2012. “We have a great committee – they’re thorough, thoughtful, and asked wonderful questions,” Brown said. “It was a feeling of great hope for the process to come.”