The Andrews University Board of Trustees is holding meeting now through tomorrow, March 1. The main topic on the board's agenda is the election of a new president for the university. The university’s Presidential Search Committee has indicated that it has narrowed a list of over 80 down to two candidates.
In August 2015, Niels-Erik Andreasen, who has served as Andrews University’s president since 1994, announced that he will retire at the end of his current five-year term in June 2016. Since that time, the Presidential Search Committee has been reviewing and interviewing potential candidates.
The formation of the search committee itself was no small task. The Board of Trustees asked faculty, staff, students, alumni, and members of the board itself to recommend names of individuals who they thought should serve on the committee. When the committee was initially formed in September 2015, the members were:
Board: Benjamin D. Schoun, chair (chair, Board of Trustees) Don Livesay, vice chair (president, Lake Union Conference and vice chair, Board of Trustees) Dan Jackson (president, North American Division) Lisa Beardsley-Hardy (director, Department of Education, General Conference) Judith Storfjell (non-church employed retired educator) Loren Hamel (non-church employed physician and president of Lakeland Health) Faculty: Tom Goodwin (College of Arts & Sciences) Janet Ledesma (School of Education) Duane McBride (College of Arts & Sciences) Nicholas Miller, secretary, Search Committee (Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary) Staff: Elynda Bedney (director, Student Financial Services) Student: Maureen Raj (MA in School Counseling candidate, officer of the Graduate Student Association) Alumni: Dana Wales (owner, Wales & Associates) Invitee (with voice, but not vote): Artur Stele (nominee for future Board Chair, and VP, General Conference)
In late November, committee chair Ben Schoun announced that Tom Goodwin (Department of Biology) had resigned his position on the Search Committee and would be replaced by Karen Allen (Department of Nursing), who had been previously selected as an alternate should such a situation arise.
The committee consulted with several constituencies in creating its initial list of potential presidential candidates, among them, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and World Divisions, the North American Division, and the Lake Union Conference. The committee also sought input from the Andrews University community, including the university’s board of trustees, its administration, faculty, staff, students, and alumni. The committee also created a webpage to provide updates and to allow the public to recommend names for consideration or submit comments.
When identifying characteristics a president should possess, the Search Committee referenced materials from Andrews University’s last presidential search (which occurred in 1994) as well as leadership materials and other documents. The committee noted that since 1994, three characteristics have emerged as significant musts for candidates: “First, multicultural and international sensitivities; second, a bridge builder who can negotiate difficult divides in the context of Adventist vision; third, building undergraduate programs and a presence on campus that connects with undergraduate students.”
The Search Committee also named the following “essential, basic, required attributes”:
Transformative leadership, as demonstrated by: -Strategic vision -Academic experience and standing, understands educational culture and trends, competent in change management -Personal courage and quality of character, compassion, able to communicate -Adventist integrity, spiritual maturity, balance, bridge builder -Embracing multicultural diversity -Ambassador/statesman/promoter—internally and externally -Team builder, collaborator -Good judgment based on experience, values, emotional and social health
A total of 83 names were collected in the first round, and after reviewing these individuals based on the criteria outlined above, the list was whittled to 14 individuals whom the committee identified as follows: “two African-American males, three African-American females, five Caucasian males, one Caucasian female and three Hispanic males.”
All previous Andrews University presidents have been Caucasian males.
I asked Dr. Schoun about the pervasive rumor that the President of Andrews University must be an ordained minister. He responded saying:
While the General Conference is very interested in having a leader at Andrews University who will maintain a positive relationship to the church and its values, there is no requirement that the president must be an ordained minister and therefore a man. It has often been the case because it was thought that the president could be a strong spiritual leader for the campus, and having been a pastor and trained in spiritual things it could be enhanced. But we already have several females on our growing list. Elder Ted Wilson has not objected, but has been quite positive to some of the names.”
The committee contacted the top 14 prospects. Seven declined to be considered; the other seven submitted curricula vitae. At its December 2015 meeting, the Search Committee reviewed the seven prospective candidates, and considered other names submitted more recently. The committee produced a short list of five candidates, and conducted interviews early this month at a location away from campus in order to keep the process as confidential as possible.
The search committee announced on February 11 that four individuals had been interviewed, giving no reason for the removal of the fifth person from the list. Of the four candidates, two finalists were chosen. The search committee’s final meeting was to prepare a formal report and recommendation of the top two candidates to the Andrews University Board of Trustees ahead of tomorrow’s Board meeting.
The campus community will not meet or interact with the two until after the Board of Trustees selects its candidate. Further, the committee has been careful not to name the two finalists. This has rankled some on campus who felt they should have been able to meet and interact with the top candidates to provide feedback.
Similarly, while the search committee stated that an individual with “a presence on campus that connects with undergraduate students” was the third most important quality for a candidate to possess, no undergraduate students served on the search committee.
Speaking on behalf of the committee as chair, Ben Schoun wrote,
I have been told that there are some on campus who thought the candidates would be brought to the campus for public interviews and interaction at this stage. That has never been part of the plan. The Search Committee does not have the authority to do that. The Search Committee is a committee of the Board of Trustees and is obligated to render its report to the Board. Once the Board decides how they will relate to the Search Committee report and elects the person who will become the next president, then there will be arrangements made for that person to come to the campus and interact with various groups. This is the pattern that was used years ago when the current president was elected.”
A more collaborative process of selecting presidents is certainly the current norm in higher education. For example, Saint Mary’s College, a private Catholic institution similar in size to Andrews and just 25 miles south, announced their new president two weeks ago after an intensive process that involved the top two candidates visiting campus for a day and a half for a series of presentations and Q&A sessions from faculty, staff, students, and the larger campus community. Each individual employee and student was then invited to take a survey in which they shared their comments and concerns about the two candidates. Every comment from campus community members was reviewed before a decision was made.
Additionally, most colleges and universities choose to hire a presidential search consulting firm to oversee, streamline, and offer best practices for the infrequent process of electing a new president. Southern Adventist University retained the faith-based search firm FaithSearch Partners to oversee its search process, which named David C. Smith Southern’s next president.
It is unclear why Andrews University chose not to hire a consulting firm for the presidential search. Inquiries made to the official email, firstname.lastname@example.org, regarding the choice not to use a consulting firm were not immediately returned.
Throughout the process, the search committee has affirmed its commitment to prayer, to the Bible, and to following the Lord’s leading. One of the first biblical passages committee members studied together at the start of their search was 1 Samuel, chapters 8 through 16, in which Israel chooses a king. Ben Schoun noted that just as God selected an unlikely candidate in the form of David, “God’s chosen [for Andrews University] may not be the most obvious person or the one who looks like a leader. We must be open to God’s instruction.”
Alisa Williams is Spirituality Editor for SpectrumMagazine.org.
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