The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Witt/Kieffer firm hired to help presidential search

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.

Surprisingly, this line from the famous musical “Fiddler on the Roof” aptly describes the current stage of Guilford College’s presidential search.

The Board of Trustees has now selected the  Witt/Kieffer executive search firm to support the search process.

“Our key consultant is Katherine ‘Kate’ Haley, Ph.D., who was president of Gettysburg College and Whittier College prior to becoming a search consultant,” said Carole Bruce, vice chair of the presidential search committee. “Kate will partner with Lucy Leske, the head of  Witt/Kieffer’s higher education team.”

According to its website,  Witt/Kieffer was established 40 years ago and is the only executive search firm of the top 10 executive search firms that focuses on organizations that help people — such as nonprofits, hospitals and educational institutions.

Haley and Leske visited campus on Oct. 8, 10 and 11 and held an open forum in order to gauge students’ perspectives, hopes and dreams for the new president.

During the meeting, Haley shared her personal background and insight on presidential searches.

“I have participated in about 26 presidential searches and have been president of two colleges, one of which is Whittier, a Quaker college,” said Haley. “While I am not Quaker, you could say I have respect for the intellectual tradition and thought process of Quakerism.”

According to Bruce, executive search firms receive as compensation a percentage of the final negotiated salary awarded to the candidate who is finally selected. She was not at liberty to say what that percentage would be for the Guilford search, but the standard range in the industry is between 25–33 percent.

Now that Guilford’s presidential search committee has formed and received its charge,  Witt/Kieffer awaits a job description for the potential candidate.

“Once a detailed job description is approved by both the search committee and the Board of Trustees, the firm uses it to filter and match the best candidates to that description,” said Haley. “We take two to three months to recruit and personally interview candidates based on that description.”

The search firm’s interview process normally includes interviewing seven to 10 candidates in a confidential location and then narrowing the list down to three possible candidates. The Board of Trustees has the fiduciary responsibility to then select the president from the three remaining contenders.

In the last presidential search there were seven semi-finalists and subsequently three finalists. Of the three, two withdrew from the search.

Witt/Kieffer shares Guilford’s core value of diversity — according to its website, 43 percent of its placements in 2012 were women and minorities.

“I think it’s excellent that the search firm embodies that as part of their mission,” said senior Lyes Benarbane, traditional student representative on the presidential search committee. “More administrative higher education positions should be open to all sorts of minorities: racial, gender and sexual.”

Suzanne Ingram, staff representative on the presidential search committee, also expressed interest in a diverse candidate pool.

“Part of the presidential search committee charge that we received is to look into the possibility of diverse candidates,” Ingram said. “We are certainly open to going in that direction.”

Throughout this process, conversation continues about whether or not Guilford needs a Quaker president.

“I think it is important for the new president to thoroughly understand and have some experience with Quakerism,” said Kami Rowan, associate professor of music and presidential search committee member. “This school is rooted in the foundations of that philosophy, and I think we all agree that we would like someone who ‘gets’ our core values. I would not rule out a non-Quaker, but I would hope that our choices reflect some background or experience with the Quaker tradition.”

During the forum, Haley addressed the challenges of finding a Quaker president.

“Unfortunately, the world of Quakers in higher education is small,” Haley said. “We understand that a Quaker would be preferred, but the pool of Quakers is limited.”

Professor of English Jim Hood, a former faculty representative on the current presidential search committee, summarized committee members’ general sentiments on hiring  Witt/Kiefferr.

“I’m very glad we are working with the group that assisted Earlham in finding their new president and to have Katherine Haley as our lead consultant,” said Hood in an email interview.

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