The Saint Mary's College Board of Trustees announce the search for the 14th President of the College. Maureen Karnatz Smith '85 will serve as chair of the Presidential Search Committee, and Patti Wiedner Purcell '69 will serve as the vice-chair. The search committee invites the entire Saint Mary's community to provide feedback for the search process. Regular updates on the search process will be provided on this website and via email.
Witt/Kieffer, a national search firm with substantial experience in presidential and executive searches in higher education, is assisting with the search. Robin Mamlet, managing partner and Education Practice leader, will lead the Witt/Kieffer team with Sheila Murphy and Christine Pendleton. This team brings deep experience with Catholic higher education institutions, women's colleges and liberal arts colleges.
The search committee represents a cross section of the Saint Mary's community, including trustees, faculty, administrators, students, alumnae and parents.
Maureen Smith ’85, Chair and Trustee
Patti Purcell ’69, Vice-Chair and Trustee
Sister Alma Mary Anderson CSC, Trustee
Robyn Caponi, MSSC
Don Fischer, Trustee
Jazmin Herrera ’20, Student
Father Paul Kollman, Trustee
Mike Mathile, Trustee
Bill Murphy, Parents Council
Maureen Parsons ’13, BOLD
Bill Schmuhl, Trustee
Julie Schroeder-Biek ’88, Director of Athletics
Dr. Katie Sears '03, Alumnae Association Board President
Mary Pat Seurkamp, Trustee
Emily Sipos-Butler, Assistant Director of Campus Ministry
Leslie Wang, Department Chair of Sociology and Associate Professor
Megan Zwart, Department Chair of Philosophy and Environmental Studies and Associate Professor
Search consultants conduct listening sessions with stakeholders and feedback survey is launched
Leadership profile describing ideal candidate and summarizing priorities for the next President is distributed
Consultants engage in vigorous outreach and recruiting
Search committee conducts preliminary interviews and selects finalists
Finalists are interviewed
Board elects President and makes public announcement
New President takes office
Important in this process are the voices of our students, parents, faculty and staff members, alumnae and friends of the College. We invite you to offer your thoughts about the qualities that are important in our next president through this brief survey, which will be used to assist in developing the profile of the next President.
Nominate a Candidate
Nominations of candidates for consideration are welcome from all members of the Saint Mary's community. Please submit all nominations via email to SMCPresident@wittkieffer.com. Additionally, we invite you to share your opinions and suggestions about the search through this email address.
The Hybrid Approach: Balancing the need for transparency with the need to protect candidates' privacy
Traditionally, presidential search finalist candidates have appeared in public before the community of the hiring institution. This methodology facilitates community engagement and comfort with the search process. Positive effects of this approach include improved community acceptance of the candidate of choice.
Unfortunately, in recent years candidates — especially those in very senior positions dealing with high-stakes issues such as principal gift fundraising or delicate negotiations with accreditors — have become unwilling to undergo such public scrutiny. Candidates' concerns are not unfounded. Those involved in fundraising place at risk the likelihood of a major gift. And although this was seldom, if ever, the case historically, many final candidates now face sanctions at their home institutions for considering new opportunities. Those sanctions range from simple doubts about loyalty to demotion or even outright dismissal. There are multiple stories in higher education trade publications and even in the mainstream press about individuals being fired when it becomes known that they have interviewed for another job. As a result of the probability of such sanctions, many senior leaders now choose not to take the risk of participating in searches unless there is a guarantee of confidentiality throughout the entire process and in perpetuity. Because a sufficient number of institutions will accommodate that need, institutions that will not are at a significant disadvantage in the recruitment of experienced leaders who are successful at their current institutions and are not, therefore, in need of employment elsewhere.
In an effort to optimize the value of community engagement and yet still recruit the strongest possible pool of candidates, many institutions now conduct their final interview using a practice called the Hybrid Approach. In this methodology, the various constituencies of the institution — typically the faculty, staff, students, and alumni, with others as appropriate to the institution's construct and culture — are represented by a select number of their peers in vetting the final candidates and providing input to the board. These representatives, who join that constituency’s search committee in this undertaking, typically execute a confidentiality agreement, pledging that they will keep the identities of the candidates and the content of their feedback completely confidential. The methodology for selecting these additional representatives varies by institution and circumstance, but most typical are either an election or the invited involvement of already-elected representatives, such as a faculty senate, national alumni board or student government officers.
Search committees and boards, then, are faced with a very difficult decision: use the traditional methodology and limit the search to candidates willing to take the risk of "going public" in the final round of interviews, or acknowledge the merits of a necessarily less inclusive process using the Hybrid Approach to leave open the possibility of considering candidates who might not otherwise apply.
We have discussed this dilemma. We will utilize the Hybrid Approach to ensure that we do not limit the pool of candidates for the position. We are determined to serve the interest of the community by ensuring we see the best possible pool of applicants.
+How will our representatives be chosen?
This is still under discussion and is meant to provide representation for all groups including faculty, students, staff, and alumnae. The process will likely either involve a special election or will bring the previously elected/appointed representatives of the constituencies into play — the Academic Leadership, the Alumnae Association Board of Directors, officers of the various student government organizations, etc.
+There would still be a lot of people involved. Won't there be leaks?
The search committee has a responsibility to ensure that candidate privacy is as well protected as possible. We must rely on our constituencies to honor their commitments to confidentiality. Our expectation is that representatives will understand what is potentially at stake for the candidates and for us, will live up to their covenants and will not share information. Most importantly, our consultants at Witt/Kieffer tell us that candidates with higher education backgrounds are familiar with the traditional methodology and understand that the Hybrid Approach is a compromise accommodation. They are almost invariably willing to take that much of a chance, the theory being that 50 people have a better chance of keeping a secret than 500 people.
+What changed to make this necessary?
There are several factors, but the two most important are likely 1) the immediate availability of information on the internet and 2) the size of the financial transactions in which leaders are now typically involved. There used to be local news, but now everything can be known everywhere in real time. Candidates are no longer able to show up someplace without their home institutions knowing that they have. Also, higher education leaders are now often engaged in negotiations — especially principal gifts or sophisticated financial transactions subject to bond ratings, etc. — that can be severely compromised by a lack of faith in that leader's commitment to their current institution.
+Shouldn't someone who wants to be our President be willing
to take the chance and show up nonetheless?
Any candidate will come into this search knowing that they have competition. Humble people will recognize there is a chance that that they will interview and not be offered the position. Asking candidates to risk their current livelihood or to subject their families to upheaval with no guarantee may deter even the most dedicated individuals. Perhaps there are applicants who will come from low risk positions who will be willing to participate in a fully open search. People in jeopardy, however, not only will not show up for an open public visit but will not even apply — will not even investigate the institution and the opportunity — if there is no possibility of doing so in confidence.
+Does the Hybrid Approach work?
Our consultants at Witt/Kieffer have undertaken this methodology with great success for several years. In fact, it is now the predominant approach in their searches for private institutions, and public institutions are increasingly working to make it possible for them as well.