Presidential search pool ‘diverse’

After three days of interviews last week, the Presidential Search Committee is inching closer to finding the perfect candidate to be UK’s 12th president.

The interviews conducted with candidates last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Hebron, Ky., helped narrow down a pool of more than 100 to a much smaller number, Board of Trustees Chairman Britt Brockman said. Candidates in that smaller pool w­­­ere individually interviewed by the search committee.

Brockman said the group of candidates was diverse, with many ethnicities, races, genders and professional backgrounds represented.

“We were really happy about the strong pool we had and the diversity of the pool,” Brockman said. “We spent a fair amount of time with each of these candidates, but we still have a very strong pool that makes me very encouraged by the quality (of the candidates).”

Brockman said a hot topic at the meetings was the Top 20 business plan started by current President Lee Todd, in which the goal is to make UK a Top 20 public research institution by 2020. He said the committee and candidates discussed the importance of and the Board’s commitment to the plan.

Dealing with diversity was also discussed during the interviews.

“This is a very large and complex university,” undergraduate search committee member Taylor Cox said. “We are one of the very few in the country with all our colleges here on campus. The next president has to be very astute when looking at the whole spectrum. It’s a lot to handle.”

In addition to being Kentucky’s flagship university and a land grant institution, Brockman said having a medical center on campus and a highly complex athletics program makes UK unique.

“There are only seven universities in the United States that have all those moving parts,” he said. “That makes us very desirable and makes it very critical that we get a president who knows how to organize.

“With the (current) economic times, we need a president who can do more with less.”

Aside from business and organizational aspects of the presidential job, ways the new leader will affect the student body were also discusses with candidates.

“We’ve definitely had plenty of conversation about how the student experience plays a part in how the university reaches its goals,” Cox said, “whether it’s improving our retention rates or improving the way we reach students.”

Despite long hours during the interviews, Cox said it was impossible to be bored.

“There was no way to get tired,” he said. “We had great discussions among the committee. It’s exciting to be moving forward in the process.”

Moving forward requires what is called 360-degree betting, Brockman said. The search firm Greenwood/Asher and Associates will take the narrowed down list from the interviews and perform background checks on each candidate and call references. The search committee will then meet on April 11 to decide on four to six names to forward to the Board of Trustees.

Finalists will only be revealed to the public if they all agree; however, even if one asks for confidentiality, none of the candidates will be identified.

Brockman said it is likely that the Board will choose one preferred candidate to introduce to the university community. Constituency groups will then have a chance to give feedback before a contract is signed.

Brockman and the search firm have said allowing a confidential search paves the way for the best candidates to be considered for UK’s president.

“It’s a huge honor, but I also realize it’s a large burden, to be representing the 19,000 students who make up the student body,” Cox said, “and it’s a commitment I take very seriously.”