UP among dozens of colleges, universities seeking a new president

Q&A about UP’s presidential search with the Chair of the Board of Regents, Tom Arndorfer

By William Seekamp | November 18, 2021 11:30am
Tom Arndorfer, Chair of the Board of Regents, anticipates the Board of Regents naming UP’s 21st president in the spring.
Media Credit: Marek Corsello / The Beacon

UPDATE 10:00 P.M. Nov. 29: Chair of the Board of Regents, Thomas Arndorfer, sent an email to the UP community on Nov. 23, providing updates on the presidential search process and highlighting ways for members of the UP community to participate in the search.

UP is among many colleges and universities looking for a president, and now UP is on to the next step by hiring an executive search firm to screen and recruit candidates.

"The team from AGB Search ... will soon organize a series of listening sessions in order to gather input from the UP community on the qualities and competencies we will seek in our next president,” Tom Arndorfer, chair of the Board of Regents, announced in a Nov. 12 email to the UP community.

 The Board of Regents makes the final decision on who UP’s next president will be.

AGB Search has been chosen by UP’s presidential search committee as the executive recruitment consultants to manage the search, Arndorfer said.

“This firm was chosen at the conclusion of a competitive proposal and bid process that attracted responses from multiple well-qualified firms from across the country,” Arndorfer said in the email.

AGB Search, based in Washington D.C., offers executive search, interim search and compensation elevation services exclusively for higher education institutions, according to their website. AGB Search is also representing North Dakota State University, La Salle University and Calvin University, among others.

Their website lists a six-step process from search to presidential appointment.

Arndorfer said he anticipates the Board of Regents will name UP’s 21st president in the spring. 

Fr. Mark Poorman, the most recent permanent president, stepped down last June and Provost Herbert Medina has been serving as Acting President since July. 

The Board of Regents appointed the following to the search committee who will evaluate the candidates put forth by AGB Search:

Thomas Arndorfer, UP Regent (Committee Observer)

William Barnes, Associate Professor of Economics

Annie Buell, UP Regent

Eduardo Contreras, Associate Provost for International Education, Diversity & Inclusion

Dolly Duffy, UP Regent

Amy Eaton, Associate Vice President for Development

Mark Ganz, UP Regent

Jackie Greulich, Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations

Father Pete Jarret, C.S.C., UP Regent

Pat Johnson, UP Regent

Father William Lies, C.S.C., UP Regent

Father Edward Malloy, C.S.C., UP Regent

Father Charles McCoy, C.S.C., UP Regent & Associate Professor of Mathematics

Elise Moentmann, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs

Timothy Morgan, UP Regent (Committee Chair)

Katie O'Reilly, Professor of Biology

Cara Poor, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering

Larree Renda, UP Regent

Alejandro Santana, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Jennifer Williams, UP Regent & National Alumni Board Chair

The Selection Process

Using Michael Lewellen, vice president for Marketing and Communications, as an intermediary, Arndorfer declined The Beacon's interview request, but answered questions on the presidential selection process via email:

The Beacon: Who selected the members of the search committee and what criteria was used?

Arndorfer: The Board of Regents appointed the members of the Search Committee. In making appointments, Board leadership consulted with members of the President’s Leadership Cabinet, Provost’s Council and Academic Senate leaders.  The rationale for selection was the diversity of experience, background and perspectives needed for a comprehensive search process such as this. Search Committee members were announced to the UP community last month.  

The Beacon: Why are there no students on the search committee? 

Arndorfer: There are numerous ways to capture student input for this very important process.  The search firms we’ve considered all knew our expectation that input from a broad cross-section of UP’s student population must be gathered and included in our selection process. 

The Beacon: What are you doing to get student input early in the process? (Focus groups, surveys, etc.)  

Arndorfer: The search firm we select will have at its disposal diverse, creative and engaging channels for gathering input from our UP students.  

The Beacon: Will there be more than one final candidate presented to the committee? (At some institutions, the presidential search has been criticized for only selecting one candidate for consideration)?

Arndorfer: We believe the president’s position at the University of Portland is an attractive, rewarding and challenging role that will attract the interest of many qualified candidates. From that competitive pool, we anticipate multiple individuals will advance forward as finalists.  It’s too early to know exactly how many candidates will reach that final interview stage. 

The Beacon: What led to the decision to not just consider clergy for the permanent president position?

Arndorfer: The Board of Regents and UP leadership have an obligation to consider the most qualified candidates who will support our Catholic Holy Cross mission; be a contributor to the success of our faculty, staff and students; engage with our alumni, parents and supporters; and promote UP’s continued commitment to excellence in teaching and learning, faith and formation, and service and leadership. In order to ensure that the candidate pool is as qualified and diverse as possible, the search is open to both Holy Cross religious and lay individuals.

The Beacon: Herbert Medina mentioned at an Academic Senate meeting that search committee members participated in an anti-bias workshop. What did the training consist of, who was it conducted by and can you tell me more about efforts to make the search process more inclusive? 

Arndorfer: Leadership searches of this magnitude require focus, commitment of time and energy, and a lot of preparation.  Anti-bias training is a critical aspect of the preparation process.   Our approach allows for open, honest dialogue to help set the tone for the important work that lies ahead.

Associate Provost for International Education, Diversity and Inclusion Eduardo Contreras led the workshop, which focused on strategies for mitigating implicit bias and promoting equity in the search process. Dr. Contreras has led similar workshops for many other University search committees. Additionally, the search firm selection process has entailed evaluation of each applicant firm’s commitment to DEIJ and track record of recruiting qualified, diverse candidate pools.  The firm that UP ultimately selects will be required to conduct the search in a manner that reflects our institutional commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.   

The Beacon: What do you think is most important for students to understand about the search process? 

Arndorfer: Whomever is chosen as the 21st president in the long history of UP will be the leader for all of us – students, faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and Regents.  To find the caliber of individual we need will require prayerful patience on all our parts, and trust that those of us leading his effort have the very best interests of the UP community as our highest priority.

William Seekamp is the News and Managing Editor of The Beacon. He can be reached at Seekamp22@up.edu