Search for next NU president advances

Nathalie Tadena

A committee searching for NU President Henry Bienen’s successor has almost finished interviewing candidates for the job.

“The committee has had several meetings, and we have already interviewed a number of candidates,” said trustee William Osborn, the search committee’s chairman. “We’re not quite finished with that process yet, but we’re making a lot of good progress.”

Osborn leads the 29-person presidential search committee, which includes two students, several trustees and faculty members from five of Northwestern’s undergraduate and graduate schools. The group is staffed by Vice President for Administration and Planning Marilyn McCoy. Members of the committee were named last April, one month after Bienen announced his plans to retire in August 2009.

Bienen, who has served as the university’s president since 1995, wrote in an e-mail that he is “not involved” in the search process and “thus has no knowledge of it.”

The committee started with a list of more than 100 candidates for the position, Osborn said. Each candidate went through “a heavy level of screening” and was evaluated based on experience and other specifications.

A list of qualities the committee is looking for in a president was determined through feedback from a “variety of sources, both internally and externally,” including faculty, administrators and outside educational consultants from Spencer Stuart, he said.

The committee’s Web site lists its key selection criteria, which include “superb academic credentials,” an “ability to motivate” and a competency for institution building and improving engagement on campus.

To get feedback from different levels of the university, the committee held open forums on both the Chicago and Evanston campuses. Among forum participants’ comments were the need for a president who would build diversity, improve the undergraduate experience and develop new academic and service programs on campus.

Members of the committee began interviewing candidates over the summer. Between 15 and 20 candidates will have been interviewed by the end of the process, said Osborn.

“It’s going very well, and we expect to have a great future president soon,” said junior Sharanya Jaidev, the only undergraduate student on the committee. Jaidev and other committee members could not comment further on the search process.

The committee still has to interview a few more candidates and narrow down the short list for more intensive interviews before the search is over. Osborn said he hopes to have the selection by “the end of the year.”

“It becomes more difficult as we get further along,” he said.

[email protected]