By Brian Le
This past May, after 23 years at the college, President Dr. William Greer announced that he will be retiring at the end of the current school year.
Following this announcement, in June 2014, the Board of Trustees began the search process for Virginia Wesleyan College’s fourth president. The Board, along with the Presidential Search Committee, comprised of trustees, administration, faculty, alumni and student representatives, will be responsible for the task of selecting a successor to lead the college into the future.
The search committee, formed in mid-2014, has been working very closely with executive search firm Witt/Kieffer. Together, they have been preparing to recruit what we hope will be the next exceptional leader of the college.
The first phase of this process took place on September 12, 2014, when search consultants from Witt/Kieffer, Katherine Haley and Karen Goldstein, visited VWC to hold listening forums with the campus community. The purpose of the forums was to develop a better understanding of the college’s profile and the ideal leadership characteristics for Virginia Wesleyan’s next president.
The agenda for the day included a student forum, faculty forum, staff forum and trustee forum. The executive search firm was able to obtain a more diverse collection of perspectives by dividing the community into these separate groups. Structuring the listening forums in this manner allowed for candid opinions. Members of the audience were able to express certain thoughts and attitudes specifically unique to their particular groups.
“They were fresh and honest responses because all the forums were separated,” said Dr. Linda Ferguson, professor of Management/Business/Economics and search committee member. “In a very short period of time, they were able to listen to a vast array of constituents.”
The various groups were able to come to a consensus of standpoints that satisfies our campus community. The forums, which provided such valuable input, served as a very effective channel of communication between the campus groups and the search consultants. The engagement of the Virginia Wesleyan community has been exceptional and extremely vital to the recruitment process thus far.
“The crowd did a very thoughtful job with their questions because they were given enough lead time to reflect,” said Ferguson.
It was an opportunity for every community member’s voice to be heard. The input from each individual collectively allowed Witt/Kieffer to gain critical viewpoints essential in order to begin forming .
Given the input from the forums, Witt/Kieffer and the search committee were able to compile a list of the qualities desired in our next President.
As stated on the Virginia Wesleyan College’s website, “Virginia Wesleyan seeks a leader who can galvanize its community behind its liberal arts vision for the future and can communicate that vision in ways that motivate its many constituencies to provide the support necessary.”
Following the visit, Witt/Kieffer and the search committee collaboratively used the gathered information to develop an extensive leadership profile. The preparation and construction of the leadership profile was critical to the next phase of the search.
Now that the VWC Presidential Leadership profile has been completed and published, the recruitment of candidates has commenced. As 2014 ended, the primary focus of the search shifted to the tasks of advertising and networking to build a pool of candidates. Potential candidates must have both the desired professional qualifications and personal qualities as well.
According to VWC’s most recent press release, the presidential search process remains on track. A significant number of highly qualified candidates have shown interest in the VWC presidential position and are currently being considered. However, in the coming weeks, VWC will be seeking more candidates prior to beginning the interview phase.
The future of the college is extremely important to the search committee and has continued to be one of their main focus points. Thinking ahead and preparing for the future in order to secure the well-being of the college has been a recurring theme throughout the search process.
As stated on Virginia Wesleyan’s website, “VWC needs a forward-thinking leader who can strategically advance the college’s educational, financial and overall competitive position.”
VWC faculty and administration feel confident that the search committee will be able to find the college’s next exceptional leader in the coming months.
“Through all of the changes that this campus has faced over the years, President Greer has been a constant for us,” said Ferguson. “We are so well positioned for the next leg of the journey.”