Ohio University releases Presidential Search Stakeholder Engagement Report

Published: October 20, 2022 Author: Staff reports

The Collective Genius, a Columbus-based research and strategic engagement firm, provided a comprehensive Presidential Search Stakeholder Engagement Report to the Ohio University Board of Trustees during meetings on OHIO’s Athens Campus earlier today. 

The report, the culmination of six weeks of campus and community engagement via focus groups, forums, interviews and surveys, summarizes community hopes and expectations for OHIO’s next president and provides a wide-ranging review of both campus opportunities and future challenges. It also includes valuable insight into the types of education, professional experiences, personal background and leadership traits that various audiences felt should be embodied by OHIO’s 23rd president.

“As the Ohio University Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search Committee launch the search process, they can be assured they have great attention and interest from all those who love the University,” said Melinda Swan, CEO of The Collective Genius. “We were privileged to lead a number of very passionate conversations, and we were incredibly impressed with the overwhelming number of people who took the time to share their perspectives and insights.”

More than 300 faculty, staff, administrators, students, alumni and community leaders joined multiple in-person and virtual forums during the process. Additionally, The Collective Genius partnered with OHIO’s Center for Consumer Research and Analytics to develop and deploy a survey to faculty, staff, students and alumni that yielded more than 3,100 responses.

Highlights from these conversations and survey responses included: 

  • Most participants agreed that ensuring a sustainable financial future and investing in faculty and staff recruitment, development and retention were two of the most important opportunities for OHIO’s next president. 
  • Conversely, the two greatest challenges were identified as making difficult financial decisions and recruiting and retaining high caliber talent.
  • Transparency was listed as a core attribute. “Charismatic,” “authentic” and “truly engaged in campus life” were also frequently used words and phrases.  
  • In terms of attributes and leadership style, all audiences indicated that OHIO’s next president should be a highly effective communicator.
  • Regarding experience and background, all stakeholders concurred that OHIO’s next president should demonstrate success in supporting teaching and learning with a track record for results. The candidate should also be someone who can work collaboratively to earn stakeholder support for a shared vision and strategy.
  • Students also valued an innovator, while faculty sought someone skilled in shared governance. Staff emphasized the value of a financial/business management background. 
  • Some stakeholder differences emerged throughout the process. For example, alumni and faculty gave great weight to advancing the University’s academic reputation while students prioritized improving student experiences and outcomes, including meeting student needs in a post-COVID higher education environment. 
  • The report also noted that audiences were divided on whether it was necessary for the next president to have followed a “traditional” career path of faculty member to college dean to university provost. All agreed that securing educational outcomes was paramount, and many added that the candidate’s background should include time within public university. However, many were open to how such experiences were acquired.

“When talking about communication, people were referring as much to substance as style,” Swan stated in her report. “They described this as a person who would help shape a shared vision for Ohio University, build consensus around it and then persuasively and enthusiastically share it with funders, policymakers, the entire campus community and its extensive network of alumni and supporters.” 

The report concludes by noting that the evolving higher education landscape, both statewide and nationally, offers Ohio University’s next leader a tremendous opportunity. 

The full report from The Collective Genius can be found on the Presidential Search web page: https://www.ohio.edu/president/presidential-search.

The report has been delivered to AGB Search, which is partnering with OHIO on the search for its next president, to the Board of Trustees and to the Presidential Search Committee to help inform the Presidential Leadership Statement, which is expected to be released by the end of October.

To nominate potential candidates for the next president of Ohio University, stakeholders should email AGB Search at OhioUniversityPresident@agbsearch.com.