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Chancellor search committee receives its charge

January 30, 2008 By Dennis Chaptman

An ambitious, international and thoroughgoing search for the next chancellor is under way, with an eye toward having the campus’s next chief executive appointed by June.

“Ideally, you want a visionary and a good steward and a good manager,” UW System president Kevin P. Reilly told the 23-member search-and-screen committee at its inaugural meeting on Jan. 25.

Reilly told the panel that the next chancellor must understand academic values and appreciate academic culture, while showing a devotion to teaching, research and public service.

Marsha Mailick Seltzer, professor of social work and pediatrics and director of the Waisman Center, is chairing the search-and-screen committee and urged her colleagues to focus their efforts to meet a challenging timetable that is designed to maximize involvement by the campus and the broader community.

“Our goal is clearly to identify the best pool of candidates and to listen to the feedback we’re getting as we go through the process,” says Seltzer, whose committee will sift through applications to succeed Chancellor John D. Wiley, who announced in December that he was stepping down this September.

Reilly acknowledged that the panel will have to “push, push, push to keep to the timeline.”

That’s because both Seltzer and Reilly want to involve the community in forums to determine what qualifications a new chancellor should have and have students, faculty, staff and community members see the five finalists up-close in community forums later in the semester.

Seltzer is in the process of selecting a search firm from among four qualified companies and in arranging a community forum sometime in early February to solicit thoughts on what’s needed in a new chancellor.

Although a search firm is seen as critical to the success of the search, Seltzer told the committee that its role will be advisory, and that “they are not running the process.”

A position description laying out the duties of the next chancellor is expected to be completed later this week, setting a Friday, March 28, deadline for applications and nominations.

A university Web site that will help keep the campus involved in the process and provide potential candidates a window into the job and the campus is under development and will be announced soon.

The search-and-screen committee will evaluate all the applications and will use increasingly higher voting thresholds to narrow the candidate pool. Sometime in April, the panel expects to have arrived at a list of 10-12 semifinalists who will be interviewed by the entire committee.

Reilly says that the Special Regent Committee expects that the panel will ultimately present an unranked short list of five finalists, including a statement of their strengths and weaknesses.

He will then announce the list of finalists and those individuals will be invited to come to Madison in late April or early May to meet with faculty, students, staff and community members to lay out their visions and answer questions.

Reilly says the Special Regent Committee plans to conduct interviews of the finalists in mid-May and have the full Board of Regents choose a new chancellor at its Friday, June 6, meeting.

One of the issues that looms large in the search is pay. Wiley earns $327,417 annually. The current salary range is $307,800-$376,201.

Reilly acknowledged that regents may be upgrading the chancellor’s salary range, based on data at peer institutions and that “we need to do better with salaries.”

“Money isn’t everything in this search, but it is something,” Reilly says. “We need to be in the same league with other similar institutions.”

Both Seltzer and Reilly urged search-and-screen committee members to maintain confidentiality in the course of their work, warning that leaks of information could drive away potential finalists and taint the institution’s reputation.

They urged committee members to view the process partly as a marketing exercise that will reflect on the university in the future.

“There will be some candidates with some current and future interest in UW–Madison,” says Seltzer. “We want to make sure they come back for a future position, even if they’re not on the short list.”