After an extensive search to find a replacement for Dr. Mark Evered following his retirement at the end of June this year, the search for a new UFV president and vice-chancellor is resuming after the successful candidate decided to withdraw their application.
With current president Mark Evered’s retirement date approaching, the initial plan was for the selected candidate to start on July 1. However, Board of Governors chair and member of the presidential search committee John Pankratz explained that won’t be happening anymore.
“At the start of the whole process we had this wonderful time table that we worked out with our consultants, and the committee was going to have everything wrapped up in a neat bow about a month before Christmas,” he said. “Then real life happened and here we are — it’s been quite a process.”
The 13-person committee conducted interviews in the fall and were in the final stages of the hiring process when the selected presidential candidate withdrew their application.
“It all had to do with family circumstances that just wouldn’t allow him to make a commitment on our timeline here,” Pankratz said. “He just felt if he could not give a hundred per cent unreserved commitment he had to withdraw, which is unfortunate.”
Now, with no replacement in place for Evered, the committee has decided to appoint an interim president to start on July 1 and fill the position until a new candidate has been selected.
A vote will be made at the Board of Governors meeting on March 2 to decide who will fill the interim position.
In the meantime, the search for a president will continue, but not from square one.
“We’re not going to need to do that because a lot of the fundamentals, the foundation pieces, those have already taken place,” Pankratz said. “We’re going to be refreshing and starting a new advertising campaign.”
However, a new search committee will need to be formed.
“We’re going to have to re-establish a search committee as we go forward, and simply because we have some people whose terms are expiring and so there will be some rotation,” Pankratz explained. “My expectation and my hope would be that we have much of the same search committee that had been involved to this point forming the bulk of the membership of our reconstituted committee. But there will be some changes.”
Pankratz also noted that the upcoming provincial elections on May 9 will also influence the hiring timeline, with a potential closing date for application in late June or mid-July.
“The uncertainty on the election results, certainly from a non-B.C. applicant’s point of view, even a B.C. applicant’s point of view, I think people are going to be wanting to see what comes in in May,” he said. “I would expect our closing date to have to go beyond the results of the election.”
Despite the results of the election, Pankratz is expecting the new application process to yield a variety of new candidates for the position.
“It’s interesting, in the world of post-secondary recruiting, what I’ve learned over the last little while is that a difference in a year makes a large difference in terms of who is available to express interest in a search like this,” he said.
The search committee will also continue to work with Boyden Global Executive Search, who offered a guarantee component in finding a candidate.
“Our contract with Boyden was such that there’s no additional professional fee costs to the university for continuing the search,” Pankratz explained. “We will be spending money on advertising and bringing candidates in for interview, but their contract with us had a guarantee component which means they’re going to get somebody for us.”
Regardless of the guarantee, Parkratz noted that the committee strongly supported continuing the search with the help of Boyden.
“That received unanimous endorsement by the board, largely due to the comments of individuals who served on the search committee or worked directly with the consulting firm,” he said. “We’ve got confidence in the work that Boyden is doing.”
Despite the delay in the hiring process, the successful candidate is still set to be offered the standard five-year contract.
“There is no requirement but what’s normal and what would be considered industry norm would be a five-year term,” Pankratz explained. “Signing someone to a three-year contract, usually what you’re saying to that person is ‘We don’t have 100 per cent confidence in you’ so there’s kind of a dual messaging in that.”
However, this time around there is a bit more flexibility with when the start date will be since the interim president would be signed to a definite one-year contract.
“We knew when Mark’s retirement was and that was a pretty defined date.” Pankratz said. “In the event we’re able to find a suitable candidate, and I know we will, if they’re able to come to us before July 1, by all means we want to get someone plugged into the permanent role as soon as it’s practical to do so.
In the meantime, Pankratz and the rest of the board are optimistic and ready to move forward with the presidential search.
“Certainly, we are not where we wanted to be right now, but having said that, there are those things that do fall out of our ability to control,” he said. “This is not where anybody wanted to be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad.”