President search details shared at forum

Faculty and staff attendees at a Sept. 4 forum learned about the search process for a new president from two representatives of Witt/Kieffer, the firm assisting in the search.

Witt/Kieffer’s Jean Dowdall said that in preparation for finding suitable candidates for the president’s job, she and her colleague John Thornburgh are meeting as many people and hearing as much as they can about BGSU, and have read a number of background documents.

They have met with, among others, student groups, Interim President Cartwright, members of the Cabinet, president’s office staff, deans, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the search committee, as well as representatives from finance and administration, academic affairs, University advancement, BGSU Firelands and the areas formerly administered by the executive vice president.

In addition, they will speak by phone with all the trustees and former President Sidney Ribeau.

“We need to get a feel for what it’s like to work here and for the challenges that will face the new president, but, more importantly, we need to be able to evaluate candidates for how well they might fit Bowling Green,” Dowdall said.

Two of the most common questions candidates ask are why the previous president left (to which BGSU has a “very impressive answer” in that Ribeau went to Howard University, Dowdall said) and what the institution needs to have done. “This goes back to the question of ‘fit,’” she said, and whether what the university needs is what the candidate enjoys doing and is strong in.

Recruiting process
After gathering information, Witt/Kieffer will begin the recruiting process by sending several hundred emails to potential candidates and then following up with phone calls to those who seem especially well suited, Dowdall explained. Part of the firm’s goal is to evaluate the “motivations and personal and professional aspirations of the individuals,” to determine how they view the job and their level of commitment.

All the results and information will be provided to the search committee (, which will conduct a series of interviews in airports, followed by “deep background checks” of the leading candidates and, finally, three- to five-day campus visits.

The visits are a time of mutual evaluation, Dowdall said. The team will do what it can to “drive as much risk as possible out of the search process,” Thornburgh added. “We want candidates to go into the process with their eyes wide open.”

At the same time, when candidates are on campus, “everyone becomes a recruiter” and should not only “put their best foot forward” but also take every opportunity to evaluate the interviewee, Dowdall said.

The final part of the search firm’s role, when a candidate has been chosen, is to help work out the agreement between the future employee and the institution.

Anyone who wishes to send comments or questions to the Witt/Kieffer team may email

September 8, 2008