Dustin Steinhoff, News Editor
The University of Missouri–St. Louis has a search committee currently looking for a new vice chancellor for University Advancement. Students and faculty are able to become part of the selection process at a series of recent open forums.
Martin Leifeld, the previous vice chancellor for University Advancement, retired leaving the open position. The vice chancellor reports to the current UMSL Chancellor Thomas F. George who has held the position of Chancellor since 2003. The vice chancellor position has a wide range of authority over the University Advancement office, which includes the four main units of development: alumni engagement, marketing and communications, and St. Louis Public Radio.
June 15 was the preferred deadline for applications, letters of nominations, and expressions of interest. The required experience for the position included working with University Advancement offices, team leadership and collaboration, alumni engagement, creating constituency-based development programs and ability to secure significant gifts, and a minimum of a baccalaureate degree. The vice chancellor also acts as the university’s chief fundraising officer, making a history in fundraising is an important attribute for potential candidates.
Kristin Sobolik, UMSL Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, headed the search committee which was made up of UMSL faculty members from various aspects of the college.
“We form a search committee that involves everybody from across campus,” Sobolik said. “The search committee comes together to craft a position and job position statement while also making sure the the leadership team, and especially the Chancellor, like our statement and who were are looking for.”
Once the search committee is formed and they create their ideal vision for the position, the committee advertises the position broadly in higher education outlets and advancement outlets. The ads typically bring a lot of responses from potential candidates and this time was no different. The committee then begins the process of narrowing down the number of applicants they wish to bring to campus for the next step in the selection process.
“When we bring a candidate to campus, we’ve gone through a large and diverse candidate pool. Any of the candidates that come to campus can probably do the position,” Sobolik said. “When they come to campus, what we really look for is the interaction that they have with the campus community, if they support our mission and vision, and if they are going to help us get to the next level.”
The search committee narrowed down the candidate pool to four top potential candidates who were invited to campus to speak at their open forums. The top candidates each had the opportunity to speak to students and faculty about their experience and personal background. The open forums took place in the JC Penny building from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. Mark Helmus’ open forum took place on Aug. 3, James Salmo’s took place on Aug. 10, and Paul Herring’s took place on Aug. 16. However, one of the candidates accepted a job elsewhere before being able to come to the UMSL campus, causing the open forum scheduled for Aug. 7 to be cancelled.
“The candidate rightfully called us and withdrew from the search,” Sobolik said. “It makes a lot more sense than coming here, taking up our time and her time when she knows she is taking a different job, so we really appreciated that.”
After attending the open forum, UMSL students and faculty were given the chance to give their feedback on the candidates through online feedback forms. The forms as well as their bios were made available for download on UMSL’s website before each candidate’s open forum. These forms included questions regarding the candidate’s experience, their effectiveness at understanding and translating academic and technical information, their ability to interact with governing boards, their perceived strengths and areas of concern.
Sobolik described the three main areas of feedback that the search committee considers when making their decisions as reference checks, the candidate’s interactions with the search committee and top leadership, and evaluations from the community. As with most other jobs, the search committee checks the candidates’ references and analyzes the reactions prior co-workers gave. How they interact with the people in leadership roles during their campus visit also provides assessments the search committee considers. Lastly, the feedback forms students and faculty filled out can provide more insight into different aspects of a candidate.
“We, as the search committee, can sometimes get focused on certain things. The community is possibly looking at this position from a very different angle and can feed in their interactions with the candidate, their perceptions with the candidate that we are not looking at,” Sobolik said.
The search committee is meeting with George on Aug. 17 to discuss the final candidates. Students and faculty can expect to know who the next vice chancellor for University Advancement will be within the coming weeks.