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Penn State Presidential Search

Frequently Asked Questions about the Presidential Search

Q: How long will the search process take?

A: The Board of Trustees has set a goal of naming a new president of Penn State by June 30, 2014. Committees have been named and a timeline has been created to achieve that objective.

Q: Who is organizing the search?

A: The Vice President for Administration is charged with the task of organizing and managing the search process, and serves as executive secretary to the Trustee Presidential Selection Council and the liaison to the University Presidential Search and Screen Committee, which is listed in a future question. Dr. Thomas Poole is the vice president for administration. The Trustee Presidential Selection Council, a group of 12 members of the Board of Trustees and the chair of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, will oversee the overall search process.

Q: Who serves on the Trustee Presidential Selection Council and what is its purpose?

A: The Trustee Presidential Selection Council consists of 13 Trustees and the chair of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. Their names and professional positions can be found here.

The purpose of the Council is to oversee the search process for the next president of Penn State. Among its duties, the Council sets the timeframe for the search process and helps to determine the leadership qualities and skills needed by Penn State’s next president. In addition, the Council also named the members of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee. When the time comes, the Council will determine and analyze a short list of potential candidates. The final step in the search process is the appointment of the president, a decision that will be made by the full board in a public meeting.

Q: Who serves on the University Presidential Search and Screen Committee and what is its purpose?

A: This committee is constituted, appointed and assembled by the Trustee Presidential Selection Council with a cross-section of individuals from the Penn State community. The Presidential Search and Screen Committee is charged with making the open position known and actively seeking nominations, with the help of an executive search firm. In cooperation with the firm, the committee also is expected to assist in creating opportunities for the University community to have input into the process. The committee also will provide periodic updates to the Trustee Presidential Selection Council, and will hold several joint meetings with the Trustee Presidential Selection Council to discuss search progress and candidates.

In addition, the Search and Screen Committee members review and evaluate all applications and nominations to identify a pool of candidates who warrant further consideration by the Trustee Council.

For a list of members of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, visit here.

Q: Is a search firm being used?

A: Yes. Penn State in February 2013 contracted Isaacson, Miller to support this presidential search process. Isaacson, Miller has offices in Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco and was selected from five potential professional firms. Isaacson, Miller has considerable experience recruiting presidents and other senior officers, and has conducted successful searches for the presidents of Dartmouth College, Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Yale – National University of Singapore, as well as the chancellor of the State University of New York system.

Q: Who can nominate candidates? Who can apply?

A: Anyone may nominate a qualified candidate.

Q: Has this position been advertised nationally?

A: Yes. Advertisements were placed in the following places: Isaacson, Miller website, The Chronicle of Higher Education (both print and online), Diverse Women in Higher Education (online), Hispanic Outlook (online), and Inside Higher Ed (online).

Q: How does the University community have input into this process?

A: All segments of the University community have played a part thus far in the identification and selection process. The naming of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, composed of a diverse cross-section of individuals, has a large role in the process. The committee is chaired by the dean of the College of Health and Human Development, with the vice chair being a past-chair of the University Faculty Senate and a professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences. A contingent of faculty serve on this committee, as well as members of other groups, including academic leadership, the Commonwealth Campuses, graduate students, undergraduate students, staff and alumni.

There also have been numerous opportunities to either watch or participate in town hall meetings at both University Park and several campuses, and to offer thoughts on the future of the University and the qualities sought in the next president. In addition, the creation of the Blue and White Vision Council allowed for more input from many segments of the University. The council was tasked with identifying key strategic challenges and opportunities facing the University in the coming years. Its report can be found online at

Q: How many candidates will be interviewed?

A: The search for the 18th President of Penn State is attracting a large, qualified pool of candidates. The executive search firm Isaacson, Miller has to date contacted nearly 400 individuals regarding the position as well as tapping into another 150, who were asked to suggest individuals who might be available for the position. This outreach included substantial numbers of women, underrepresented minorities, and leaders in the corporate and non-profit sector.

There will be numerous rounds of interviews of the highest quality candidates with not only the search firm, but also the University Presidential Search and Screen Committee, along with the Trustee Presidential Selection Council. The exact number of candidates to be interviewed or considered obviously depends on the overall pool.

Q: How many finalists will be presented to the full board?

A: The presidential search is a confidential process, and there is no public resolution or posting of a short list of potential candidates, nor is the number of potential candidates revealed. It has been shown over and over that a confidential search process for an executive position attracts the best and most qualified and desirable candidates. This process was agreed to by the full board of Trustees before the search commenced.

Q: Why is the search and selection process so confidential?

A: The presidential search process is as open as we could permit without revealing candidate information. In order to attract the best candidates, the names of any presidential hopefuls must remain confidential, although the process will be known as these committees move through the steps to name Penn State’s next leader. The disclosure of candidates, even at the latter stages of the search, can result in the loss of some of the best potential leaders. It is a protective measure for the candidates themselves who request confidentiality to preserve their current careers. If they are not selected as Penn State's next president, they will return to their current positions and would like to do so without disruption.