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ISU formalizes 29-member committee to help find next president

A man checks information in front of Illinois Department of Employment Security in Chicago, Thursday, April 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Eric Stock
WGLT file
Finalists for the top job at Illinois State University will likely be publicized during the spring semester, now that the search for a new president is officially underway.

Finalists for the top job at Illinois State University will likely be publicized at some point in the spring semester, now that the search for a new president is officially underway.

A 29-member presidential search committee had its first meeting Tuesday morning at the ISU Alumni Center in Normal. The goal was to discuss, in general terms, how the search will progress alongside Parker Executive Search, the firm the university hired to aid its efforts.

The committee is comprised of faculty representatives from each of ISU's different colleges, as well as student representatives, trustees and both civil service and administrative/professional staff members.

Members of the Atlanta-based Parker Executive team heard from committee members about how they could sell both the university and the surrounding community to potential candidates — and what committee members would like to see from a potential president.

Given that the search will pull from a national pool of candidates, ISU trustee Scott Jenkins said he hoped Illinois' reputation will precede it.

"This is a state where there is unapologetic support for initiatives and issues and words like equity, diversity and inclusion," he said. "Those words mean something here to the students we're trying to serve [and] to the faculty we're trying to recruit. There are certain states where that's not the case — where there is a chilling effect upon higher education."

Jenkins added the Illinois where a new president will be working has distanced itself from the state it was nearly a decade ago, when a statewide budget impasse froze all funding to public universities.

"There are few states that I would say have completely turned around in the last five years. Its funding stability, the budget stability — it is not the Illinois that it was 10 years ago. It is a new Illinois that is investing in higher education in record amounts, both on the operational side — which we hope to improve for Illinois State — but also on the student side in investing in students and providing more resources for student financial assistance," Jenkins said.

The exact number of finalists that will be announced to the public — and made available for various engagement opportunities — is still something being hashed out, said committee chair Kathy Bohn. The committee will discuss potential candidates in closed sessions before eventually announcing the finalists during the spring semester.

Bohn said whoever ends up getting the job will have much to oversee: The university is planning for a fall 2025 opening of the College of Engineering, and a number of higher-level administrative positions will need to be permanently filled. ISU's Vice President of Finance and Planning, Dan Stephens, is set to retire on Jan. 1 and following completion of an administrative audit, ISU's athletics department also needs a permanent athletic director in place.

"There are a lot of things going on at ISU and we need a permanent president to move all of these things forward. We're going to move forward as quickly as we can, keeping in mind that we want to do the best job that we can," Bohn said.

The next meeting of ISU's presidential search committee is set for the last week of November. Another meeting will be held in mid-December.

Interim president Aondover Tarhule's agreementwith the university's board of trustees states he will have that title until the end of June, 2024.

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Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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