Search for UCF president potentially impacted by school size, state law

The search for the next UCF president could be hurt by Florida’s open records laws and the university’s size, a search firm official said Monday.

At the second meeting of the UCF Presidential Search Committee, Parker Executive Search President Laurie Wilder said the scope of UCF might intimidate some candidates, though it could excite others.

“They [the best candidates] want to be a part of an institution that has a forward trajectory,” Wilder said.

Although UCF is complex, it’s well-earned reputation will attract a large amount of candidates, UCF Presidential Search Committee Chairman David Walsh said.

Wilder encouraged the committee to keep an open mind when considering candidates and discussed national trends that could affect the search process such as high presidential turnover and the number of ongoing presidential searches, which could be anywhere from 20 to 25, she said.

Wilder said UCF is unique in that today’s average university president’s tenure is under five years, and UCF President John C. Hitt’s time at UCF has surpassed 25 years.

In addition, the growing complexity of requirements and expectations for a university president will limit the amount of interested candidates, Wilder said.

“I’m always going to tell you to see more than less candidates because of the market that we’re in and to really be open to what that candidate pool will look like,” she said.

Committee member Michael Manglardi expressed concern about the challenges the Florida Sunshine Law, which guarantees the public access to governmental meetings and records, could pose.

Wilder said UCF will “absolutely” lose some candidates due to the breadth of these laws.

It’s not uncommon for candidates to submit their materials at the last minute, a trend that might be even more noticeable for UCF’s search due to Florida’s transparency laws, she said.

“It’s not that they don’t trust you, they don’t know you,” Wilder said. “In this case, their name would be instantly public, and so they would wait until that very last moment.”

However, the UCF Presidential Search Committee emphasized a need for expediency, and a swift process could attract candidates, Wilder said.

There is no exact timeline for when candidates will start to be considered; the firm needs to analyze the market and candidate pool first, Wilder said.

UCF’s Vice President of Communications and Marketing Grant Heston established goals for a clear and concise marketing plan that were unanimously passed. The plan will center on paid advertisements, positive media coverage and making the presidential position attractive online through social media and the UCF Presidential Search Committee’s website.

“Aggressive recruiting matters,” Wilder said.

Parker Executive Search was chosen by Board of Trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena shortly after three external firm choices — Korn Ferry, Parker Executive Search and R. William Funk & Associates — were brought to the committee’s first meeting on Nov. 20.

Although the Atlanta-based firm has four core practice areas — higher education, health sciences, sports and corporate — about 75 percent of the firms activities on any given day are done on a college or university campus, Wilder said.

Wilder said the firm is not here to pick UCF’s next president but will be a facilitator that can provide “tenacious recruiting.”

“We have no votes in this process, so what we’re going to do at every turn is to provide you options,” Wilder said.

Wilder assured committee member Sydney Kitson the firm can find someone with adequate experience, both professionally and academically, who can handle the magnitude of UCF.

Committee member and UCF SGA Vice President Cristina Barreto brought up the importance of including the student body in the search.

Wilder said the firm will reach out to students across campus for presidential recommendations and nominations, and students will have an opportunity to meet potential candidates on campus when the number of applicants has been narrowed down to about four candidates.

Anyone interested can speak at one of the four open forums, which are scheduled for Jan. 10 and Jan. 11 of next year. The forums focus on challenges UCF could face in the near future, what kind of leader could meet those challenges and why someone should want to become the next president, Heston said.

As of now, each day will feature two meetings — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — although the exact times are not yet determined.

Tentative presidential search schedule: 

Jan. 10, 2018: The morning meeting will feature a regular UCF Presidential Search Committee meeting and the first open forum, held in either the Fairwinds Alumni Center or the UCF Global Collaboration Room on UCF’s main campus. The afternoon meeting would be held in the Student Union to give UCF students an opportunity to speak.

Jan. 11, 2018: The morning meeting would be held in the Center for Emerging Media in downtown Orlando as to include the downtown community, Heston said. The afternoon meeting would be held in the College of Medicine in Lake Nona to reach yet another audience, Heston said.