The College of William and Mary’s search for a 28th president continues with the release of a presidential leadership profile outlining what the search committee is looking for in candidates. During last week’s convening of the Board of Visitors, the Presidential Search Committee met to review the leadership profile and discuss the coming phase of the search, which is commonly referred to by the search committee as the “silent phase.”
Following the April 2017 announcement of College President Taylor Reveley’s June 30, 2018 retirement, the Search Committee has conducted 155 listening sessions — meetings where members of the search committee gather input from students, alumni and others in the College community. 1,602 individuals have participated in these sessions thus far.
In the coming months, the Search Committee will work in conjunction with Witt/Kieffer, an executive search firm, to gather and review nominations and interview candidates. At the end of this phase, the Search Committee will present two or three final candidates to the Board of Visitors for review.
College spokesperson Brian Whitson said that leadership profiles vary based on the institution, but he believes that the College’s profile found the perfect balance for what he hopes it will achieve.
Some profiles are short, and candidates can go on and look at links to other information,” Whitson said. “We wanted to do a mixture of that. If you look at this profile, we are hitting the high points. We wanted to hit that mixture, the balance between too long and too much information but wanting to make sure we are presenting something that William and Mary would want to present to a potential candidate.”
“Some profiles are short, and candidates can go on and look at links to other information,” Whitson said. “We wanted to do a mixture of that. If you look at this profile, we are hitting the high points. We wanted to hit that mixture, the balance between too long and too much information but wanting to make sure we are presenting something that William and Mary would want to present to a potential candidate.”
The development and release of the leadership profile is designed to attract potential candidates and provide these individuals with information about the College’s history and traditions, plus details regarding what the Search Committee is looking for in applicants.
According to Vice Rector of the Board of Visitors and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee Thomas Watkins ’74, diversity was one priority that he hoped was apparent in the leadership profile.
Could the way we have discussed diversity and inclusivity been louder?” Watkins said. “Sure it could, but it’s definitely up there as a priority, and I’m pleased with that.”
“Could the way we have discussed diversity and inclusivity been louder?” Watkins said. “Sure it could, but it’s definitely up there as a priority, and I’m pleased with that.”
Throughout the 36-page leadership profile, diversity is referenced as an important value in the College community and quality that potential candidates must value as well. During public Search Committee forums held in the spring, diversity was listed by participating students, faculty and staff as a desirable trait in the future president, although Watkins has maintained that “diversity of experiences” may be just as important in the hiring process.
“Above all, the president must be attuned to the pressing issues of the day as they impact the university and community constituents,” the leadership profile states. “The president will embody a commitment to diversity and inclusion and will have a demonstrated track record of creating and nurturing diverse, welcoming communities and teams. The William & Mary campus community will be best served by a leader who wholeheartedly cares about each of its members and who seeks, values and respects the viewpoints of its students, administrators, staff, faculty, alumni and friends.”
Moving forward, the Search Committee will transition into a more confidential and “secret” phase. Members will conduct interviews but keep the names of candidates and number of nominations considered under wraps. Still, the committee expressed a desire to maintain transparency with the College community, especially with young alumni and current students.
According to Whitson, a large aspect of this initiative will be expanded outreach over digital media. The Search Committee has launched a website, added widgets to College web pages and begun using a hashtag, #wmPresident, to share updates on the search process. Additionally, Whitson said the committee has decided to create Instagram Stories that share information about the leadership profile with current students, who predominantly are engaged with the College through Instagram’s platform.
Some Search Committee members are still concerned that the silence during this next phase of the search process will raise concerns. BOV and Search Committee member Doug Bunch ’02, J.D. ’06 said he has received questions from young alumni wondering what the next phase will look like and hopes there are ways to continue reassuring community members throughout the process.
Currently, the Search Committee’s plan is to share fun, informational videos and graphics about the silent phase. One of these videos will portray a mock candidate interview with the Griffin mascot.
“While sharing numbers just welcomes comparisons, we need to find other creative ways to let people know what’s being done,” BOV and Search Committee member Lynn Dillon ’75 said.