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Chancellor search committee looks to have finalist named by end of academic year

Lynn Duffy (second from right), the UNC System's senior associate vice president for leadership and talent, speaks about WCU's chancellor search at the Sept. 21 meeting. She is flanked by search committee members (from left) Bryant Kinney and Patricia B. Kaemmerling, both university trustees, and Shea Browning, WCU general counsel.

The committee leading the search for Western Carolina University’s next chancellor approved a timeline that is designed to have a slate of three finalists on the desk of University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings and a new chancellor named by the end of the current academic year.

Approving a schedule of search-related activities was among the orders of business conducted at the committee’s meeting Friday, Sept. 21, its first official gathering since the announcement in July that the finalist selected for the position had withdrawn from consideration, putting the search process on a temporary hold.

The new timeline calls for resumption of the recruitment process after the committee’s next meeting, to be held in mid-October, with a deadline for applications and nominations for chancellor in early January. Using a process similar to the first phase of the search, the committee will begin reviewing candidate materials and select a to-be-determined number of candidates to participate in off-campus interviews during late January and early February.

Following those interviews, the committee will narrow the field to several candidates to bring to campus for visits in mid-February with selected students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni and community members. Participants in those sessions will be required to sign nondisclosure agreements to protect the confidentiality of the candidates.

The search committee will review feedback collected during those campus visits and present three finalists – in unranked order – to WCU’s Board of Trustees for review at its meeting in early March.

After evaluating the committee’s slate of candidates, the trustees will recommend the unranked candidates to Spellings for consideration or will return the slate of candidates to the search committee for further action. Following her evaluation of the candidates, Spellings will then recommend one finalist to the UNC Board of Governors for approval. The plan includes ample time for vetting of the finalists by Spellings and the Board of Governors, committee members said.

Spellings addressed the committee via video teleconference, thanking the members for agreeing to continue to serve. “I know that it has been a lengthy journey. It’s been a time commitment. You all are showing your commitment to Western by agreeing to continue this journey together, and I am most grateful to you. Really, there’s nothing more important in governance and in management and executive leadership than getting the right people to do the job. If you get that right, you get lots of other things right,” she said.

“There are a lot of different stakeholders that weigh in on who should lead our institutions, and that’s as it should be. This is the people’s university. We have many stakeholders institutionally and certainly in the policy realm and on and on. We want to make sure that we have a leader who has broad support,” she said.

Spellings tasked the committee with finding a leader to continue the momentum the university enjoyed under its previous chancellor, David O. Belcher, who went on medical leave at the end of 2017. Belcher, who had been battling brain cancer since April 2016, died June 17. Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar has been serving as acting (now interim) chancellor, and Carol Burton, WCU associate provost for undergraduate studies, is serving as acting provost.

“We have a mandate together, and especially at Western, to support and empower the region through the educating of students, to educate the next generation and to help tackle community challenges,” Spellings said. “WCU is doing a terrific job of that. You have momentum. The NC Promise program is fueling access and quality. You have a growing, talented student body and outstanding faculty and staff who are attracted to this place because of what it is and what it does.”

Prior to and after hearing from Spellings, the search committee discussed how the search process would unfold going forward.

Although the Board of Governors originally planned to have a draft of a revised process for chancellor searches at its meeting earlier this month, that was postponed because of the approach of Hurricane Florence. Those changes are now expected to come at the Board of Governors meeting in October, but they will not apply to the WCU chancellor search, nor to a chancellor search currently underway at Elizabeth City State University, said Lynn Duffy, UNC senior associate vice president for leadership and talent.

“Whatever policy changes are approved would be for searches going forward. That’s the way we practice other policy changes. We would not want to disrupt the current search process,” Duffy said. “That said, of course the Board of Governors or the president could implement changes that they see fit. We are operating under existing policy because this search was initiated under the policy that is in place today.”

Twenty out of the original 21 voting members of the search committee are continuing to serve as the search process resumes; the one exception is Kevin Trudell, former president of the WCU Graduate Student Association, who has graduated. The committee discussed the possibility of replacing Trudell with another graduate student representative, but opted in favor of maintaining the continuity of the committee’s membership.

David Powers, a member of the UNC Board of Governors and the board’s liaison to WCU, is continuing as a nonvoting member of the committee. Patricia B. Kaemmerling, chair of WCU’s Board of Trustees, and Bryant Kinney, vice chair of the trustees, remain as co-chairs of the search committee, and both expressed their gratitude to the returning committee members.

“Bryant and I wish to thank you all for your willingness to devote another large amount of your time to this process. We all know how important this process is for our beloved university,” Kaemmerling said.

“You don’t know how much I appreciate the full commitment of this group to, as they say, keep on keeping on,” Kinney said.

Search committee member Bill Yang reiterated previously voiced faculty concerns calling for a more open process in which all constituent groups have an opportunity to review finalists’ materials and interact with them in public sessions. “I want to propose to this committee again the value of open forums for the finalists’ on-campus visits,” Yang said.

WCU General Counsel Shea Browning and Kaemmerling reminded the committee that current UNC policy regarding chancellor searches requires the confidentiality of candidates for that position.

The committee will continue to be assisted in the process by the executive search firm Buffkin-Baker. Because the current situation represents a continuance of a search and not a new search, the firm will be charging no additional fee, not including related expenses.

Committee members are:

* Gorham Bradley, former director of the WCU Catamount Club and current commercial risk adviser for Stanberry Insurance of Western North Carolina.

* Casey Cooper, CEO, Cherokee Indian Hospital and WCU trustee.

* Keith Corzine, WCU assistant vice chancellor for campus services in the Division of Student Affairs.

* Ken Hughes, chairman, Dixon Hughes Goodman.

* George Little, former member of the WCU Board of Trustees and current member of the UNC Pembroke Board of Trustees.

* Kellie Angelo Monteith, WCU assistant vice chancellor for health and wellness in the Division of Student Affairs.

* Ricardo Nazario-Colon, WCU chief diversity officer.

* Kenny Messer, member, WCU Board of Trustees.

* Chris Parrish, WCU associate director of undergraduate admissions.

* Robin Pate, past president, WCU Alumni Association.

* Bob Roberts, secretary, WCU Board of Trustees.

* Brandon Robinson, chair of the WCU Board of Visitors.

* David Shapiro, retired WCU Robert Lee Madison Distinguished Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

* Katherine Spalding, member, WCU Student Government Association.

* Wes Stone, WCU associate professor of engineering and technology.

* Vicki Szabo, WCU associate professor of history.

* Teresa Williams, former chair of the WCU Board of Trustees.

* Bill Yang, WCU associate professor of electrical engineering.

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