The Bowdoin Orient

× Submissions are anonymous. Leave contact information if willing, or email orient@bowdoin.edu.
3 days ago

Committee publishes job description for next president

The committee searching for President Barry Mills’ successor shared the job description it is providing to applicants and issued a call for nominations in an email sent to members of the Bowdoin community last Friday. Over the summer, the committee hired the firm Isaacson, Miller to assist with the search and conducted information-gathering forums with students, faculty and staff, according to the email.

Isaacson, Miller is an executive recruitment firm that recently consulted for Amherst’s and Williams’ presidential searches.

The job description was written by the recruitment firm and the search committee—which consists of 10 trustees, three faculty members, two students, two staff members and a member of the Alumni Council—and was reviewed by the Board of Trustees.

The document begins with the writings of two former presidents of the College, William DeWitt Hyde’s “Offer of the College” and the portion of Joseph McKeen’s inaugural address that highlights the importance of serving the common good.

The rest of the document consists of a description of the College and a list of the challenges the next president will face.

“I think it is a document that tries to present the College first and foremost to potential candidates for the college presidency, but also to frame the discussion about the College’s aspirations and what objective the next president  might lead the College towards,” said Jes Staley ’79, the trustee who is serving as chair of the Presidential Search Committee, in a phone interview with the Orient.

The job description refers to Bowdoin’s upward trajectory five times, with the introductory section stating, “The College seeks a new president who can extend Bowdoin’s trajectory.”Staley said that based on conversations he has had with members of the committee and other members of the Bowdoin community, there is a shared belief that the College is in a good place.

“This is not a college that is in need of a major change because the school is in such terrific shape—the quality of the faculty, the quality of the students, the quality of the residential life, the support of the alumni—as the document underscores, people just want to make sure that we find the best possible candidate to continue what is a pretty extraordinary place,” he said.

The section of the job description titled “Qualifications and Experience” mentions the ability to lead a conversation about the curriculum, an understanding of college governance, and experience working with both faculty and board of trustees. Staley said that those preferred qualifications are not an indication that the committee is only considering applicants working in academia.

“We haven’t set out criteria that limit the range of candidates that the committee can look at,” he said. “Clearly there’s an appreciation by the committee of the value of finding an individual with a deep understanding of academic life and an appreciation for liberal arts education.”

The committee also laid out its expectation that the next president will be able to “engage effectively with the many constituencies of the college, skillfully negotiating different points of view” and “articulate the value of a liberal arts education in the twenty-first century.”

During an interview with the Orient last semester, Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies Tess Chakkalakal, a member of the search committee, said that the second of these abilities is particularly important to her.

“What I’m looking for is someone who really has not just a commitment to the liberal arts in general, but someone who really is on the front line in the current debates regarding our college’s role in training young people to become active citizens and productive in the world,” she said.

The job description praises Mills’ administration for raising funds dedicated to financial aid and diversifying the faculty and student body, and calls on the next president to continue expanding access to the College.

“The new president should extend Bowdoin’s efforts to remain affordable to first-generation and middle-class families, continue efforts to diversify the faculty and staff, and address the academic and social needs of the student population to ensure that every Bowdoin student feels included in the campus culture and is positioned to thrive,” it reads.

Staley said that the committee would keep the College’s commitment to diversity in mind throughout the search process.

“The composition of the search committee tried to reflect the diversity of the Bowdoin community overall,” said Staley. “There’s a deep commitment by the College to embrace diversity, and I think that embracing diversity extends to how the search committee is going to handle its search.”

Staley said that in order to attract the most talented applicants, the committee has to keep the names of candidates confidential. Applicants do not want to risk losing their current jobs by demonstrating a public interest in becoming Bowdoin’s next president.

Withholding the names of candidates is common practice during a college’s presidential search, according to Staley.

The committee has already received nominations and will continue to receive them in the coming weeks.

“We have reviewed a very long list of potential candidates and we are going to be reaching out to dozens and dozens,” said Staley. “These are people that we’re going to be approaching, people that have been recommended to us, and people that have approached us. It is a long list and I’m sure it will be an even longer list as the fall moves forward.”

News

Opinion

Features

Arts & Entertainment

Sports