Gamble to stay through fall, replacement search in high gear
Although he originally announced plans to leave office June 1, University of Alaska President Pat Gamble will stay on as long as September while the Board of Regents select his replacement. If all goes according to plan, the new president will take over at the start of the fall semester.
“We asked Pat Gamble to extend the time he stays with us, and he was willing to stay through the fall, not past September,” said Regent Mary K. Hughes, chair of the University of Alaska Ex-Officio Presidential Search Advisory Committee. “In doing so, he allowed us to give more time to the finalists.”
Under ordinary circumstances, finding a university president can take over a year. But with the university system facing steep budget deficits, time is not a luxury in selecting a new leader. By necessity, the latest presidential search is moving much faster than usual.
“This is an abbreviated search, a focused search,” Hughes said. “We’ve only had a few short months.”
The first stage of the search started in January, shortly after Gamble announced his retirement. The Advisory Committee was formed, and a private consultant — R. Thomas Fitch of Academic Search, Inc. — was brought on to assist the process. The position of UA President was advertised in national publications, and applications were accepted through March 31. Once the deadline passed, the advisory committee reviewed applications, chose candidates, and forwarded the results to the Board of Regents on April 8.
“The search committee did an outstanding job,” Hughes said. “I was impressed with the work they did in a short amount of time.”
The Board of Regents will meet again on May 18 to review the search committee’s selections. With the help of Fitch, interviews, background and reference checks will give the board a clearer picture of the candidates. Ideally, the regents will be able to announce a list of finalists after that meeting, though they may choose to spend additional time reviewing their options. The number of applicants and their identities will be kept confidential until the announcement, to avoid jeopardizing their current employment.
One prominent candidate, Chancellor Brian Rogers, recently withdrew his name from consideration for the UA presidency, which was not anticipated by UA leadership.
“Chancellor Roger’s retirement announcement was a surprise to the President, Board of Regents and to the Presidential Search Advisory Committee,” said Board of Regents Chair Jyotsna Heckman, via email. “While we had not expected this and feel a huge sense of loss, we also understand the reasons that he outlined in his announcement. These are very stressful times across our UA system and UAF certainly faces its share of it.”
Despite this turn of events, Heckman emphasized that the timetable for finding a replacement has not changed.
“It is our expectation that we will have a replacement [president] in place before the start of the next school year,” Heckman said.
Once the finalists are announced, then the third phase will begin. Commentary from faculty, staff, students and the community is usually sought during this part of the search, to help the regents make their hiring decision. In 2010, when a replacement was sought for President Hamilton, the finalists toured system campuses during this phase. Whether time will allow for a similar tour during this search is yet to be seen, but in either event Hughes promises that our voices will matter.
“We’ll try to do something that will get as much feedback as we can in the time we have,” Hughes said. “We want people’s feedback. It’s very, very important to us.”