Wright State will search nationally for new president

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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WSU president

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Public forums

Wright State University will host three public “listening” sessions next week to gather input for WSU’s presidential search. Upcoming events:

Oct. 10 — Presidential search open forum, WSU main campus, 109 Oelman Hall, 2:30 p.m.

Oct. 11 — Forum for Boonshoft School of Medicine, 101 White Hall, 2:30 p.m.

Oct. 12 — Forum for Lake Campus in Celina, Dicke Hall, 4 p.m.

Oct. 19 — Presidential Search Symposium, main campus, 109 Oelman Hall, 2:30 p.m.

Wright State University is ramping up its first national presidential search in more than two decades, and the chair of the search committee said it’s “incredibly important” that the school makes the right hire.

Doug Fecher, a WSU trustee and search committee chair, talked Wednesday of the preference to conduct a national search, but did not rule out internal candidates. He said casting a wide net is not a reflection of the university’s financial trouble or other recent struggles.

“In this case we just think it’s important to go outside even if there is a viable internal candidate,” Fecher said. “I think if the university was kind of humming along on all cylinders it’s best to do as wide a search as you can.”

The search timeline calls for the naming of Wright State’s seventh president in April.

This search will mark the first time since 1992 that WSU has looked outside its own campus for its leader. President David Hopkins, who plans to retire when his contract expires June 30, 2017, served as the university’s provost before being promoted in 2007. His predecessor, Kim Goldenberg, was formerly the dean of the school of medicine.

To help find Hopkins’ successor, Wright State has hired Academic Search, a Washington, D.C.-based search firm that specializes in higher education and has worked with several Ohio universities. The search firm’s services will cost WSU about $120,000.

Listening phase

The 23-person search committee currently is in its “listening phase,” Fecher said. It is gathering student, staff and community opinions about what Wright State needs in a president. An online survey emailed to students and staff last week has already received more than 1,200 responses, WSU spokesman Seth Bauguess said.

The university will host several public forums this month as well as a symposium that will focus on the state of higher education.

The first forum is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Monday in 109 Oelman Hall. The second forum, for the Boonshoft School of Medicine, will be at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in 101 White Hall (Gandhi Auditorium). The third will be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 12 in Dicke Hall on the WSU Lake Campus in Celina.

The symposium is set for 2:30 p.m. Oct. 19 in Oelman Hall. Panelists will include University of Toledo President Sharon Gaber; Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey; state Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering; and state Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington.

The event moderator will be Sinclair Community College President Steve Johnson.

Embrace diversity

After gathering public input, a “presidential profile” will be completed. At that time, the search firm will advertise and recruit candidates. One-to-three candidates will be presented to the board of trustees in March prior to final interviews. The board will make the final decision.

Fecher said the search firm called the WSU position “an attractive job,” and stressed the desire for public input.

“It’s important that we get it right,” he said. “We can’t have somebody come in that people wonder about. It’s terribly disruptive if a search doesn’t work out.”

There is no contingency plan in place if the board does not select a new president by the time Hopkins retires. But he is set to remain on campus for one year after leaving office, WSU officials said.

Members of the committee interviewed Wednesday say they are searching for a president who will embrace the diversity of Wright State’s campus while being able to relate to students and steady the school’s finances.

Wright State has never had a female president, but faculty president Carol Loranger said the university hired Academic Search partly because of its record of attracting diverse candidates.

“We need a president who can balance all of our needs, and one of those needs is to balance our books,” Loranger said, adding that the faculty puts a premium on a president who has “the ability to attract and maintain good colleagues.”

Lukas Wenrich, student government president, said many students are not cognizant of the search. But the senior from Anna thinks students that are watching the process want a president who is willing to build relationships. He mentioned how Hopkins remembered his name after an initial meeting that lasted about 30 seconds.

“We expect a leader who can push us forward,” Wenrich said. “Our students want the holistic learning experience.”

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