Goucher College Presidential Search FAQ


What is the time frame of the Presidential search process?

On October 19, 2018 Jose Bowen shared his decision to step down as President of Goucher College effective June 30, 2019. A Presidential Search Committee (PSC) was appointed by the Chair of the Board and its members approved by the Executive Committee. The PSC at its first meeting was charged by the Chair of the Board with the charge approved by the Executive Committee as required by the by-laws. Selecting the next president of Goucher College is a critically important endeavor. This presidential search process will take several months of hard work and this process is anticipated to conclude in 2019, with the new president assuming office as soon as possible. While time is a factor, the most important goal is to find the right individual to lead Goucher College.

Who is responsible for selecting the next President?

According to the College By-laws, the Board of Trustees holds the responsibility of hiring the president. The Board recognizes and values the insight of all key stakeholders of our college community in the search process. This critical role is reflected in the composition of the PSC, which is charged with presenting the Board with a recommended slate of the best-qualified candidates for their consideration.

What is the role of the Presidential Search Committee?

The role of the PSC is to conduct a confidential national/international search; to identify, interview, and vet the most qualified candidates; engage all members of the Goucher College community, and recommend a candidate to the Board of Trustees for approval. The Board will be the ultimate decision-making body in selecting the next president.

Who is serving on the PSC and how were they selected?

With careful consideration of all constituencies, and best practice in this process, Ruth Lenrow, Chair of the Board, asked volunteers from the faculty, staff, current students, alumnae/i, and trustees to serve on this committee. View the full list of committee members.

Which search firm has been retained and what is the firm’s role?

After vetting several search firms, Goucher College has retained Isaacson, Miller (IM). With offices in Boston, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, IM has the largest higher education executive search practice in the U.S. and has placed some of the most respected and successful presidents in the country’s leading colleges and universities. More information on IM and their team of consultants can be found here.

The role of the search firm is to assist the PSC by helping to guide the Committee in determining its structure and processes; by advising the Committee in connection with the creation of the presidential job description; and by engaging in outreach to attract a large, talented and diverse pool of qualified candidates to be considered by the Committee. The firm also works with the Board and PSC to conduct extensive background checks and references on all finalists.

Why are we conducting a confidential search?

After careful consideration and research, the Board unanimously concluded that a confidential search would ensure the deepest and most diverse candidate pool for the presidential search committee’s consideration.

In an increasingly competitive higher education landscape, college and university presidents need significant leadership experience in a complex and nationally consequential organization.  Virtually all the candidates will occupy senior roles.  They are successful people and highly respected as visible leaders in their home institution.  In an open search processes public vetting by the campus community of multiple finalists usually dissuades the most experienced candidates from engaging in the search. A candidate’s standing in their current organization – with faculty, board members, donors, and others – can be significantly damaged if they are ultimately unsuccessful in an open and public competition. In the age of the internet and social media, even small activist protests can use harsh language to describe candidates they dislike; sometimes for reasons only tangentially connected to the candidate or reasons that are false.  The result does and should deter candidates. What is on the internet never dies.  Candidates find themselves humiliated at home and search committees in other searches shun them.  Even the appearance of controversy frequently deters the candidates.  As a result, confidential searches are now the standard for virtually all selective private universities and colleges and increasingly, many public universities, and so the Board believes that it is in the best interest of both our institution and the candidates to follow this standard and maintain a confidential search throughout the entire search process.

Reasons for a Confidential Search

Candidates, most of whom currently hold senior leadership roles, might compromise their current leadership positions.

  • When it’s known to a candidate’s home campus that they are a finalist in a presidential search, it’s assumed they are “on the market” and the perception of an inevitable departure can render the leader a lame duck in their role.
  • This perception can also cause problems with fundraising and board members.

Social media and the internet.

  • Even when candidates’ names are not formally released to the press, the local newspaper will typically pick it up and anyone with a google alert on their home institution will be aware of the candidate’s status as a finalist.
  • Activist groups can target candidates, sometimes for reasons only tangentially connected to the candidate, or reasons not connected to the candidate at all.
  • A candidate’s status as a runner-up will live in perpetuity on the internet as will any information that has been spread about their candidacy. This can hurt their ability to be considered for future presidential searches.
  • The more high-profile the candidate, the higher the risk to their career.

Open searches are more complicated for underrepresented candidates.

  • Underrepresented candidates are at higher risk for the aforementioned internet activism and/or slander.
  • Many will also wonder if they have been moved forward as a finalist because the institution is committed to showing they considered a diverse pool but do not necessarily have a commitment to having a diverse hire.

The vast majority of searches are confidential.

  • While “everyone is doing it” doesn’t sound like a compelling argument, it means any candidate who does not want to assume the above risks has plenty of options for pursuing a presidency without them. The most attractive candidates have a lot of options. In short, it would be very easy for them to just say no to Goucher College. It will significantly limit the number of people the search committee can consider.
  • Those willing to go public are willing to do so for a reason - it’s often known they are on their way out of their current institution.

A few notes on reasons often cited in support of an open held search

The candidates won’t understand the campus without meeting people.

  • A representative presidential search committee like the committee at Goucher will expose the candidates to a variety of perspectives. They are also provided with very comprehensive data and often connected confidentially with key leaders on campus to make sure they have the information they need to make an informed decision.

The faculty, students and staff should have a say in selecting the next president by meeting finalists in public forums.

  • The Board is committed to an inclusive process. Isaacson, Miller conducted open listening sessions to help inform the position profile and the desired experience of candidates. In addition, the committee includes faculty, staff, students, alumnae/i, administrators and trustees.
  • The committee will continue to work diligently for months to make a recommendation to the Board. The impressions left by candidates after a one-hour open forum will reward the most charismatic interviewers, not necessarily the most experienced leaders.
  • There will be a comprehensive referencing process that will provide far more evidence on the candidate’s style and fit than impressions after an open forum allows.
  • A public vetting process does not guarantee success.

How many responses did you receive to the Presidential Search Survey? What was the breakdown between students versus faculty versus staff versus alumni?

About 250 individuals participated in the community survey. Over 80 students responded, about 55 faculty and staff, and over 100 alumni and broader community constituents. Note that about 15 individuals did not indicate which group they identify with.

The search firm consultants in partnership with the search committee synthesized the learnings into a comprehensive document called a “position profile” which provides a picture of Goucher and the current institutional moment; and most importantly, it outlines the challenges and opportunities that the next President must lead Goucher in tackling. A final version of this document, which is a public document and which will be used in the recruitment of candidates, is available here.

How is the Goucher College community being informed on the progress of the search?

This website serves as the central hub for information related to the presidential search process. Please be aware that each member of the PSC and the support staff have signed a confidentiality agreement. This means that when you ask a PSC member a question about the search process they will say to you that they cannot answer your question and hope that you will understand that all public information is available on the website. See the updates section for the latest news.