Trinity continues search for new president

With President Dennis Ahlburg’s contract to expire come January, Trinity is searching for a new president. With the assistance of a search firm, Academic-Search, the process for finding a new candidate is well underway. Assisted by Stanton Hales and Andrea Hamos, both senior consultants, the search committee, comprised of 15 members of faculty, staff, students and board members, plans to present its recommendations come December.

The search committee, while it does not have a vote, aims to find the best candidate for the job, presenting their finds to the Board of Trustees who will make the final decision.

“What we do is not select the next president; we don’t even have a vote,” Hamos said in a recent public forum over the search process. “We come in and we organize, inform and support Trinity through its searching process.”

With the help of the search firm, the committee can better identify its goals and field the best pool of candidates. To SGA president and senior Evan Lewis, the firm is a crucial component of the process.

“What they are doing is helping the search committee field the applicants,” Lewis said. “They already have the infrastructure  in place to find the pool of applicants and present that to the committee.

“We have 29 applicants and almost another 47 nominations,” Lewis said. “The people from Academic-Search tell us that it is ahead of schedule and we are exceeding expectations.”

The search firm, although different from the one used in 2009 during the search for Ahlburg, has been well received among members of the University and search committee.


“We felt of the search firms we looked at Academic-Search was the most qualified and had the best experience to represent Trinity in the search,” said Adam Urbach, professor of chemistry and chair of the faculty senate.

“The search committee as a whole is very pleased with academic search, we felt it was a good choice.”

Even with the high numbers, the results look to only increase with a large majority of applications to come later, according to Urbach.

“We are ahead of where we expected to be in terms of applicants, and we will get the vast majority of applications towards the end,” Urbach said.

With a tentative schedule in place, the committee looks to narrow down the applicants further by October, with finalists in place mid November.

“By the first week of October we should have core finalists which we will narrow that down in the middle of October to semi-finalists,” Lewis said.

“We’ll then interview those finalists personally and from that we will select no more than three finalists who will visit campus come November.”

Following the visit, set for November 13-21, the committee plans to submit their recommendation to the board on December 5. Despite the plan to make a decision come next year, the candidate will be expected to take office in the summer of 2015.

“We hope to have a candidate accept the position the first of the year but they wouldn’t take office until next academic year,” Lewis said. “Frankly people that are qualified for the presidency already have other commitments, and we wouldn’t expect or want a candidate who would leave halfway through an academic period.”

In terms of qualities the committee is looking for, the standard qualities of any leader are desired, alongside other abilities, including a good fundraising experience.

“We are looking for a president who can fundraise, since the unhappy fact is that it takes money to run a university, so fundraising experience is a good thing,” Lewis said.

“But someone who really understands the residential small liberal arts university, a leader who is able to pick the right people and move them in the right direction to further the goals that come along with such a position, is what we’re looking for.”

On top of such characteristics and qualities, a candidate who understands Trinity’s culture and campus is another desired trait among constituents and members of the university.

“The questions that were asked by everyone were what is  unique, good and great about Trinity and what is the chief challenge that you see for the future,” Urbach said. “The person has to be a good fit for Trinity; that’s an important characteristic they would have to understand and be willing to adapt to the culture of the institution.”

Other qualities and attributes are outlined in the advertisements and profile on Academic-Search’s webpage, made available publicly for candidates and others alike.

As outlined on the profile, “Trinity University seeks a president with the professional background and the personal qualities that will enable him or her to lead and inspire the university addressing the challenges and opportunities outlined above.” These personal qualities range from energy to ambition, with professional qualities of educational commitment and global perspective.

Although primarily focused on traditional candidates from higher education, the search committee is not against the idea of a non-traditional candidate.

“We are not, from what I understand, ruling out non traditional candidates because one of the more important things is the ability to lead and that is a transferable skill,” Lewis said. “We do think some leadership skills are transferable so we are open to non traditional candidates, although generally experience in higher education is only going to help you.”

For students concerned by the new presidential selection, Evan Lewis encourages students to get involved by voicing their concerns so that the best fit can be found.

“If [students] have comments on their interaction with administration or if they have parts of Trinity culture they really like and really want to make sure someone gets, definitely communicate that to me and the board,” Lewis said. “While I’m the only student on the board, I’m not there for my opinions I’m there to act and synthesize the opinions of the student body.”