Committee Searches for New President

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The new year brings ABAC closer to President Bridges’s departure, and the Presidential Search and Screen Committee continues its search for a new president to lead ABAC into the future.

The process can appear unclear to the uninformed, with layers of intricate operations that, at first glance, seem shrouded by a lack of transparency, an issue emphasized by the commitment to a confidential process — agreed upon by the members of the committee whose exception is Dr. Ray Smith, head of the committee.

Dr. Smith has provided the Stallion with a few comments that clarify what criteria the committee is using to guide itself, how exactly the process is being conducted, and who exactly controls which aspect of the process.

When discussing the committee’s ideal candidate for the position, Dr. Smith emphasized the importance of a candidate who values the “shared governance, of actively seeking the input of the institution and factoring it into how the institution moves forward as a whole.”

Dr. Smith also stressed the importance of ABAC’s next president being “Someone who understands money…and can properly manage a strong financial presence for the school to ensure a stable future.”

It should also be mentioned that Dr. Smith hosted a number of listening sessions with various members of the ABAC community, including faculty and staff, during which the committee received feedback on what the ABAC family would like to see in its next president.

“We want a president who realizes that the students are the reason ABAC exists,” said one contributor. “It’s the place where alumni return because it feels like home,” they continued, with many in attendance sharing a similar sentiment.

Kimberly Jacobs, a member of the ABAC Alumni Board of Directors, underscored the importance of ABAC’s student focus even further, saying “ABAC provides a hands-on experience that students can’t get anywhere else.”

Thus, the committee has committed to finding a president who can not only provide the institution with a stable financial presence, but also succeed in meeting the expectations of the ABAC community at large.

Yet, there still exits confusion regarding the internal aspects of the hiring process, an issue which Dr. Smith addressed by saying, “The role of the committee is not to hire the next president, but to search and screen candidates. The actual selection is done by a sub-committee of the Board of Regents.”

Essentially, the process works as follows: the committee works to find, screen, and evaluate candidates, with the goal of sending between three and five acceptable candidates to the Board of Regents for consideration. The candidates remain anonymous throughout the process.

These candidates are then sent to the Board of Regents, which has the final say on which candidate receives the position. The remaining candidates being allowed to retract their application to keep their involvement with the process confidential.

The committee is not the sole party responsible for conducting the search, however. It receivies assistance from a representative of an outside firm known as ZRG Partners. This recruiting agency uses data analytics and other advanced research methods to connect hiring entities with candidates suited to the offered positions.

In the words of Dr. Ray Smith, “Their job is to seek out qualified individuals and encourage them to apply for the position.” Ann Yates, the company’s representative, is the only other party with knowledge of the candidates’ identities apart from the committee, the Board of Regents, and the candidates themselves.

The Board of Regents is the party with majority of the control in whom is hired to replace President Bridges, with the committee and Yates maintaining control over what specific candidates are sent, as well as with how many.

When asked about the rather secretive nature of the search for ABAC’s next leader, Dr. Smith admitted, “In some ways, the process is not transparent, or at least appears that way, because it’s a closed process.”

Elaborating on the need for such confidentiality, Dr. Smith said, “If someone already in a position of high standing were to be revealed as having applied, their position and entire career could be at risk.”

This is not a risk only to the potential candidates, then, but also to ABAC’s own acquisition of a new president, as suitable candidates could potentially be discouraged from applying were no guarantee of confidentiality in place, thereby jeopardizing both the search and, potentially, ABAC’s future as an institution.

Despite the secrecy that conceals much of the process, Dr. Smith was adamant that the confidential nature of the operation has in no way swayed the members of committee away from looking towards ABAC’s best interests.

He underscored the level of diversity within the committee itself as being a central factor in its ability to consider the interests of the many rather than those of the few.

“There was no one person who had undue power or authority in the selection of Committee members,” he added, granting the committee a level of diversity in backgrounds, mindsets, and experiences that will allow its members to select the best possible candidates for the job.

Dr. Smith concluded, “Above all else, the committee seeks to find a candidate who will keep ABAC strong as both an institution and as a community so it can continue to provide life-changing experiences.”

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