ROLLA — Gary Forsee is not walking through the door, but the UM Board of Curators believe they can find a presidential candidate with similar qualities.
At the start of a two-day meeting Monday in Rolla, board members expressed their appreciation of Forsee's abilities during his tenure as UM System president. They said they hoped the next president would be as business-savvy, skilled at communicating with stakeholders of the university and able to have a political presence in the legislature.
Forsee stepped down temporarily in December and made his departure permanent in January.
The presidential search committee approved a statement of qualifications to help define the search for a new president. Once the statement has full board approval, the committee will move to the recruitment stage of the process.
A candidate pool will be developed from suggestions by members of the board, recruitment by the search firm and responses to advertisements, said Jan Greenwood, president of Greenwood/Asher & Associates, the Washington, D.C.-based firm hired to assist the search committee.
Assets the board approved as desirable include a passion for public higher education and the university's mission; leveraging university resources to advance the state's economy, education, health and culture; and working as a “tireless champion” for access, affordability and quality within the system.
To help develop a presidential qualification statement, the board held a series of seven public forums throughout the state in early March.
Betsy Rodriguez, vice president for human resources, noted that participants in the forums told the board the next president should lead with a focus on innovation and vision for a sustainable future.
"We don't want to hire a president for the year 2012, but for the year 2020," Rodriguez said.
Board Chairman Warren Erdman asked Greenwood about any "buzz" surrounding the open position. Greenwood said the university is "viewed as very open to color and women" in the job search because of the minority presidents hired in the past. Greenwood also said the system faces "nothing close to competition" from other institutions.
While the search will not be limited to Missouri, a common theme emerging is the hope that a strong candidate will be found within state borders. Both Erdman and Curator Judith Haggard pushed for a candidate from Missouri or someone who deeply understands the state.
“We've had a lot of presidents that have come here and taken a long time to get going and then left,” Haggard said. “They need to understand the culture of Missouri.”
The presidential search committee is scheduled to meet again May 21 for an update from Greenwood/Asher & Associates on the search. The board will also be updated regularly on a password-protected website and will receive a weekly summary of the process.
In other board action Monday, the Finance Committee addressed the preliminary system budget for fiscal 2012, reporting that a $53.2 million funding gap remains.
Expected to affect the budget are these factors:
- Proposed state cuts that would decrease revenue by $51.4 million.
- A 5.5 percent average increase in tuition and fees that would produce revenue of $31.1 million, when offset by scholarship allowances.
- Additional compensation costs of $44.1 million with the proposed 2 percent increase in merit-based salaries and benefits.
The system's operating budget is roughly $1 billion.
Nikki Krawitz, vice president for finance and administration, said decisions must be made to pinpoint further cutbacks. At least $8.7 million in savings has already been identified, she said, but the sizable gap remains.
The board must decide, for example, whether to continue to defer expenses for maintenance and repair.
"Our people are probably hurting worse than our facilities right now," Krawitz said.
Curator Wayne Goode said the board should target areas that produce a low number of degrees. Interim President Steve Owens replied this would have a minimal impact because many classes must be retained to serve other programs.
Erdman suggested that measures be directed to increasing revenue in addition to cutting costs.
The board is expected to approve next year's budget at its June meeting.
In other action:
- The compensation and human resources committee deferred action on revamping retirement plans for faculty and staff.
- The same committee voted to continue a transition assistance program for UM employees who lose their jobs as a result of budget cuts.