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Campus News

Warren Wilson College Presidential Search in its Final Stages, Approaching a Decision

by Micah Wilkins, web editor

The first presidential candidate spoke to students, faculty, and staff in the open session in the chapel Nov. 14. Photo by Ginny Rosson.

The search for our new president is finally in its last stages. Three out of the four final candidates have already visited campus, with one final candidate visiting after Thanksgiving break, Nov. 27 through 29.

Before winter break, in mid-December, the presidential search committee will have agreed on a candidate, and will submit their recommendation to the Board of Trustees, who will then meet to approve the new president.

According to Brianna Quick, the assistant to the presidential search committee, the four final candidates that are being considered right now are all very different.

“They all bring something different to the table, I think,” Quick said.

The firm that the college hired to search for potential presidents prefers not to have the names of the four remaining candidates published, however they can be found through the inside page.

According to Quick, the candidates are as follows:

  1. The first candidate, who visited the college early last week, has been working abroad for 10 years. “What’s unique about him is his experience abroad,” Quick said. In addition, he used to work for an organization that awards grants to organizations that are working for social justice.
  2. The second candidate came to campus at the end of last week. She is by training a conservation biologist and is thus well versed in environmentalism and higher education. She used to be the first dean of a very small campus whose main focus was sustainability
  3. The third candidate leaves campus today. He has worked in college administration before leaving to work for an organization whose focus is bringing sustainability to college and university campuses.
  4. The fourth and final candidate arrives on campus after Thanksgiving break. According to Quick, he has the most traditional background, with years of experience in academia.

Overall, all of the candidates have had experience in higher education, either as faculty members or in administration.

Quick developed the tight schedules for each candidate during their short time on campus. In a matter of 72 hours, candidates are shown all over campus, have one-on-one meetings with staff, faculty, and students, as well as open sessions with the campus community and a meeting with the search committee.

“It would be part of their job, speaking to big groups, and also speaking directly,” Quick said. “We’re just giving it to them in a two-day crash-course.”

The meetings, open sessions, tours and meals with administrators throughout the candidates’ visits will help them get a sense of the campus and the campus community, according to Quick.

“It’s probably good for them to have a sense of the different constituents on campus,” Quick said. “Having different group meetings and then one with the whole campus. It’s positive to have free forum with your peers to be able to ask questions and having everyone come together.”

Because there is so much to do on campus, and so much to see, the candidates’ strict schedule allows for a “wildcard”—an hour of time allotted to them they can spend however they want. Candidates have the choice of joining a class or work crew, meeting with International Programs, visiting the MFA program, or taking a Green Walkabout tour.

The first two candidates both chose to join the Landscaping Crew, and it was such a success that Quick hopes to work in time for every candidate to join a work crew, for at least a short time.

“It’s throwing them into a different environment that’s much less formal,” Quick said.

After each visit, community members are invited to fill out an online response survey in response to the candidate. These can be found on the inside page at least 24 hours after each candidate leaves campus. This information will be used by the search committee when making their final decision in December.

As a 2007 Warren Wilson alumna, Quick was a student when the college was searching for a president before Sandy Pfeiffer was chosen.

“That was a phenomenal time,” Quick said. “Students were really engaged at that point. I remember coming to open sessions in Canon, and it was shoulder to shoulder, totally packed. Everyone was there to be part of the process.”

This time around, students have even more opportunities to be involved in the process.

“In this transition from one president to another, this is our chance to have a voice for what we want as an institution,” Quick said. “It’s a positive experience, and I think everyone is very hopeful for the college’s future.”

Presidential Search Timeline

Presidential Search Timeline

Feb. 11, 2011
President Sandy Pfeiffer announces he’ll retire in June 2012.

April 2011
Presidential Search Committee is formed by the Board of Trustees. The search committee is made up of eight trustees, one faculty member, one staff member, one administrator, one student, and Brianna Quick as the assistant to the committee.

May 2011
Committee meets with the firm they’ll be using, Isaacson, Miller, hired to help them find appropriate candidates. Search consultants from the firm come to campus to get a better sense of Warren Wilson and what the college is looking for in a new president.
Search consultants put together a position profile to give to applicants.

June 2011
An invitation to apply for the position is put out, and applicants are starting to be recruited.

July 2011
Search committee meets with the firm to go through the initial pool of applicants. According to Quick, the committee goes through close to 100 applications.

September 2011
The committee reviews a pool of candidates and selects nine to interview.

Oct. 15 2011
The search committee interviews the pool of nine off campus. After the interviews, the committee narrows their selection down to four and invites those four to visit campus.

Nov. 2, 2011
The committee narrows it down to four candidates and presents these candidates to the campus community.

Nov. 13, 2011
First candidate visits campus

Nov. 16, 2011
Second candidate visits campus

Nov. 20, 2011
Third candidate visits campus

Nov. 27, 2011
Fourth candidate visits campus

Mid-December 2011
The search committee decides on a candidate and sends their recommendation to the Board of Trustees. The trustees then vote on the candidate.

Discussion

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