Oxy's campus to the west

We are writing to update the Occidental community on the progress of the search for Oxy's 16th president.

Our last update announced the formation of the Presidential Search Committee. Since that time, the Search Committee (consisting of trustees, faculty, staff, and students) has met twice to discuss logistical matters related to the search and to process the feedback we received from the community about Oxy’s next president. As committee co-chairs, we wish to thank all search committee participants for their candid input to this inclusive process, and to all those who attended a listening session or otherwise provided feedback that will guide the committee in the selection of the next president.

In this memo, we draw the community's attention to the following developments:

  • Selection of the search firm
  • Drafting of the position profile
  • Design/Timeline of the search process

Selection of the search firm:

During the late spring semester, the College retained the services of Isaacson, Miller (IM)--an executive search firm with extensive experience placing excellent candidates in leadership positions in higher education (including several outstanding liberal arts colleges), and a fundamental commitment to (and strong record of) bringing women and people of color to positions of leadership. The IM team has been working with the search committee and the Board of Trustees to understand the overall context and needs of the college as we embark on the search. And they have begun the process of building the pool of candidates from which Oxy’s next president will be selected, taking into account all internal referrals and nominations, and a robust external sourcing process.

Drafting the position profile:

The Search Committee, with assistance from IM, has completed drafting the position profile based on the feedback provided in the community listening sessions, discussions with the Board of Trustees, and the comments submitted on the search website by community members (including alumni). The profile describes the College and its ambitions for the future, the opportunities and challenges inherent in the position, and the qualities sought in our next president. Feel free to circulate the profile document to interested parties. The position is being advertised in key higher education publications.

Design/Timeline of the search process:

The Board of Trustees and the Search Committee developed an updated timeline and a process for the search.

Summer 2019:

During summer 2019, IM is actively engaged in the process of building the pool of potential applicants. The consultants are fielding inquiries, conducting outreach to potential candidates, and are in frequent contact with the Search Committee co-chairs. We wish to thank all members of the Oxy community who have submitted referrals and nominations for the position. Nominations from community members are especially valuable, given your deep understanding of our institution and its challenges, and the impressive professional networks you maintain. There is still time to nominate! Please feel free to email your nominations to oxypresidentialsearch@imsearch.com.

Fall 2019:

During the months of September and October, the Search Committee will participate in anti-bias training, and will hold meetings to narrow the candidate pool. Those deliberations will yield a set of semi-finalists selected for first-round interviews later in the fall. From that set of semi-finalists, the Search Committee will select up to 5 candidates who will advance to the next phase of the search process.

This next phase includes a second round of face-to-face candidate interviews with the Search Committee. In lieu of public sessions held on campus (see below), candidates will meet with selected faculty and administrative leaders and trustees, in addition to the Search Committee. All members of the community (including the Search Committee members) that meet the candidates must adhere to the confidential nature of the search as it applies to candidate identities.

The Search Committee’s charge is to forward 2-3 candidates--candidates that the Committee can solidly endorse as excellent choices for the presidency--to the Board of Trustees. As is their mandated responsibility, the Board will name the president from among those finalists advanced for selection early in 2020, with an expectation that Oxy’s 16th president will assume the role on July 1, 2020.

On the subject of confidentiality: The Search Committee heard from many students, staff, faculty and trustees who advocated for the search to include open forums with the finalists--a process that was used for past vice president-level searches at Oxy and even some previous presidential searches. It is fair to say that there are many viewpoints on the relative benefits and risks of having candidates visit campus for public forums in this age of social media (for those who are interested in learning more about this issue, there are two recent articles published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, outlining the points in favor of, and opposed to, open search processes). On the one hand, "confidential" search processes tend to generate the largest and most diverse candidate pools, since some qualified candidates are reluctant to participate in an open search due to concerns about the effects on internal and external relations at their home institutions should their candidacy be revealed. A more public process allows candidates to interact with the members of the community that they aspire to lead, and invites additional perspectives into the Search Committee's deliberations. In the interest of conducting the most inclusive search possible (from the candidates' and the community's perspective), our process will be a “hybrid” process that is neither completely open nor completely confidential. In addition to the Search Committee, various members of college and faculty leadership will have the opportunity to meet with candidates during the second round of interviews.  We believe that this hybrid approach reflects an appropriate balance between protecting candidates’ confidential pursuit of the position and having multiple perspectives factor in to the Search Committee’s deliberations and recommendations.

We will continue to update the community about the progress of the search once classes resume in the Fall semester.

But for now, continue to enjoy your summer.


Coit 'Chip' Blacker
Wendy Sternberg