Board of Regents chooses presidential search firm

The Board of Regents has announced that the search firm AcademicSearch will assist them in choosing a new president for the University of Alaska system.

Nine board members voted unanimously on Aug. 25 to hire the firm. Two regents – Carl Marrs and Ashton Compton – were not present at the vote.

The Washington D.C.-based firm will assist the 11-person Board in the hiring of a new president.

It’s a huge step forward in the search process according to Kate Ripley, UA spokeswoman.

Despite six other firms eligible for the contract, Ripley said that the firm stood out because their focus is strictly on executive searches for colleges and universities.

Their bid of between $65,000 to $85,000 to assist in the search is “very competitive” according to Ripley, and the bid does include expenses such as travel.

Board Chair Cynthia Henry said that one of the main reasons they choose AcademicSearch was because of their recent searches in finding presidents of universities with similar structures. She said that she had spoke with the chair of the University of South Dakota’s Board of Regents, who the firm assisted in the hiring of their executive director in May. Henry said that the South Dakota chair had high praise for the search firm.

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In accepting the bid, AcademicSearch will work with the Board to organize the search process – including crafting a job description, advertising and recruiting potential candidates. Then the board will organize an advisory committee consisting of “key stakeholders” that include faculty, students, staff and alumni.

Henry said that Elaine Hairston will lead AcademicSearch’s efforts in evaluating what the University of Alaska will want in a new president. Part of that will mean meeting with the Board and discussing their search criteria, then working with advisory groups to come to a conclusion on what they would want out of a president. Henry estimates that, per Hairston’s schedule, she will probably visit the UA campuses in mid-September to get a better feel of what they are looking for.

Henry said that the firm will search both in and out of state for a qualified candidate. She also said that they hope that Alaskan stakeholders submit names to the search firm.

Henry’s is hoping for maximum participation.

“[There’s] lots of opportunity for input, so they can communicate what they want in a president,” Henry said.

Current UA president Mark Hamilton announced he was retiring in June after serving in the position for 12 years. He has not set an exact departure date, hoping to give the board as much time as necessary to conduct a proper search. Ripley guesses that the first official interviews may not begin until after the winter break or even as late as spring break.