The search for a new University of Minnesota president is ramping up.
The U’s governing board on Friday approved a group of 23 faculty, staff, students, regents and others who will recruit and vet candidates with help from a search firm the university hired this summer.
The U is also hosting a series of forums beginning Monday to get input from its five campuses on the qualities students, employees and others want to see in a new top leader.
Eric Kaler, who took over the university’s top job in 2011, announced this summer he would step down next July.
Board of Regents Chair David McMillan and Vice Chair Kendall Powell sifted through more than 400 nominations for the Presidential Search Advisory Committee to choose its members.
“They are stellar, they are enthusiastic, and they are ready to serve the university,” McMillan told fellow regents, who backed the selection unanimously.
McMillan said he fielded concerns that the committee features only two students, both from the Twin Cities campus. But he said the group will tune in to student voices beyond its membership.
The committee members will meet with students as they gather input on the university’s next leader. Catalina Anampa Castro, an undergraduate honors student in economics and sociology who will serve on the committee, also chairs a Student Senate committee, a role with campuswide responsibilities, McMillan said.
The regents also enlisted Mark Sheffert, founder and CEO of Manchester Companies and a U alumnus, as a last-minute addition to the committee after hearing concerns that it did not include enough members with executive governance expertise. The group also includes a number of professors, administrators and other officials from the U campuses, and notable alumni including local PR firm founder David Mona, and Board of Regents member Steve Sviggum, a former state House speaker.
Earlier this summer, the university hired the consulting firm Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates on a $200,000 contract to help with the presidential search.
The committee’s chair, Regent Abdul Omari, said both the committee and the firm will reach out to candidates and review their qualifications. But it will be the committee’s job to narrow down the list and recommend three or four leading candidates to the Board of Regents, which will make the final call on a new leader.
“The search firm works for us,” Omari said of the committee. “We drive the search. We influence the types of candidates they will bring to us.”
Omari said the committee plans to offer occasional updates during the search. But he stressed the importance of protecting the confidentiality of contenders for the job before they are identified as finalists to make sure strong candidates are not discouraged from applying.
Mike Kenyanya, the student body president at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said he knows the two students on the committee as capable leaders. He appreciated that Omari, who represents students on the board, was chosen to chair the committee.
But at a time when rising tuition has come to make up a larger portion of the university’s revenue, the committee should have included more student voices, particularly the perspective of students on greater Minnesota campuses.
“I was shocked there are only two students,” he said. “As someone who is supposed to represent students, I am just not comfortable looking at that list.”
Kenyanya noted that because the search process is largely confidential, “It’s not as if the students on the committee can come back to us and consult us.”