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Search for new UA president takes shape

Tom Price

UA President Ann Weaver Hart in her office inside Old Main on Wednesday, April 27. Hart was inducted in 2012 and will not be renewing her contract when it ends in 2018.

The search for the 22nd president of UA is “well underway,” according to Ron Shoopman, Arizona Board of Regents member and co-chair of the UA Presidential Search Advisory Committee.

Members of the 27-person search committee have spoken to nearly 150 prospective candidates for the position, with roughly one-third expressing interest in the position, according to Shoopman.

“I anticipate a successful search, and that we will have someone in place, on schedule, who can execute their vision and take the university to the next level,” he said.

The new president will replace current UA President, Ann Weaver Hart, who announced last summer she would not seek a contract extension. Her contract of $475,000 per year will continue to be paid until July 2018, when her contract runs out, regardless of when the new president takes office.

Hart will remain at the university as a faculty member at the College of Education.

When the search began, the committee wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the number or qualifications of potential candidates, but so far the results have been encouraging.

“I am really happy with the pool of candidates we have so far,” Shoopman said.

He added that the pool consists of people from a wide range of locations, backgrounds and professions.

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“We have internal and external prospects, sitting presidents and provosts at institutions across the country, and some from outside academia as well,” he said. “It’s a very diverse pool.”

He said the fact that so many candidates are interested confirms that UA is a highly regarded institution.

“It’s not a surprise, but it’s nice to hear,” Shoopman said.

Shoopman said all qualified prospects are being considered for the position, and that the search is being conducted in an “open and honest” way.

He said committee members were encouraged to suggest potential candidates from wherever they may come from.

“We don’t have someone in our hip pocket,” he said. “The committee is dedicated to finding the best person, and are working very hard to get that done.”

Leadership and faculty groups at the university were also consulted and asked to make suggestions, he added.

When the committee first met in October, the firm hired by the university to assist with the search stressed the need to keep prospects confidential in the early stages of the search.

“The quickest way to lose a potentially good candidate is for that person to be prematurely revealed as a candidate,” said William Funk, president of R. William Funk & Associates.

“The better the candidate, the more sensitivity there is to being revealed too early in this process,” he said. “Those individuals will have more to lose.”

RELATED: Alumni reflect, share hopes for the next UA president

Shoopman said the committee is currently still open to adding new presidential prospects.

“Being agile and flexible is important,” Shoopman said. “We don’t want to close the door early when there might be someone sitting on the fence waiting to express interest.”

He said he expects the committee to start working through and narrowing down the prospects at their next meeting. A date has not yet been confirmed, but it’s scheduled to be held later this month.

“Right now we are doing a lot of reading,” he said. “The CVs of the prospects are very impressive, they are all very accomplished.”

With so many qualified people interested, he said the committee has a difficult job.

“But it’s a good problem to have,” Shoopman said. “Now the committee is working with the search firm to make sure we find the best person for the job.”

Once prospects are finalized and the committee has made its recommendations, he said interviews with candidates will begin later in the spring, with the goal of having a new university president take office by August.

“That way they can begin the fall term with new leadership in place,” he said.

Follow Andrew Paxton on Twitter.

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