Here’s what UNC students, faculty and alumni say they want in their next chancellor

Wanted: 13th chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Preferred qualifications: “Strategic leadership and vision,” a willingness to build community among members of campus and the “ability to protect academic freedom and free expression.”

Those traits — among several other qualities — are what more than 2,500 members of the UNC community said they want to see in the university’s next leader, according to the results of an online survey launched as part of the ongoing search to find a new, permanent chancellor.

The 13-member search committee tasked with finding the next chancellor reviewed the survey results at a virtual meeting Tuesday, marking the third time the group has met.

The survey included three quantitative questions, in which respondents were asked to rank what they believe to be the top-five “points of pride” and opportunities at the university, as well as the “essential” skills the next chancellor should demonstrate. Respondents were also asked to identify their affiliation to the university, with the ability to make multiple selections. Alumni accounted for 58% of responses, followed by donors (22%), staff (19%), students (15%) and faculty (14%), among other affiliations.

A leadership profile, a document mandated by UNC System policy on chancellor searches that will describe the desired qualities of the future chancellor, is being developed with input from the survey and other listening sessions with community members. The document was not yet available by publication, but will be published on the university website dedicated to the search when it is finalized.

Laurie Wilder, president of Parker Executive Search, the firm leading the search, told the committee Tuesday that the survey results offer “a great deal of insight” from community members as the search continues.

Strengths and challenges at the university

Collectively, survey respondents identified the university’s primary strengths as academic programs, teaching excellence, student life, outcomes for students and the university’s reputation. Wilder said the university’s strengths are qualities “that make us unique and make us special in this marketplace” of higher-education talent.

At an April meeting of the search committee, Wilder cited a “war for talent” in higher education as a challenge, a point she reiterated Tuesday. Top-tier potential candidates who are already chancellors or presidents at other universities generally want to maintain their relationships — notably with donors — at their current schools, which can be compromised by entering the pool for another job, Wilder said.

“The best candidates will not come to the table. They are going to have to be pulled to the table,” Wilder said. “It has nothing to do with how wonderful your university is. It’s that there are risks associated to search.”

In addition to the university’s strengths and attractions, candidates for the job will also be interested in areas for improvement, Wilder said.

“When we reach out to candidates, they tend to say: ‘Tell me what the opportunities are. Tell me what the challenges are,’” Wilder said.

Survey respondents identified the university’s top opportunities for improvement as: recruiting and supporting faculty and staff, campus facilities and infrastructure, “creating a sense of belonging for all” and student advising.

The university is facing more than $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance of state-supported campus buildings and infrastructure, according to the university’s facilities services department. Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts, who has not stated publicly whether he would like to be considered for the job permanently, has said he plans to use much of his time in the interim role to better understand how campus classroom spaces are being used, and whether it might be more efficient to improve them or build new ones.

The UNC System Board of Governors last month repealed the public university system’s diversity, equity and inclusion policy, though system and university leaders have said the new policy does not affect the university’s responsibility to welcome students from a variety of backgrounds to campuses.

Desired qualities in UNC’s next chancellor

Regarding preferred qualifications and skills of the next chancellor, respondents also said they would like someone who understands the resources required for “significant scholarship” and who has “strong financial and operational acumen at a large institution.”

Other factors, such as the ability to foster relationships with governing board members and to fundraise, ranked lower overall, though still received about 30% of respondents’ votes.

Jennifer Lloyd, a member of the Board of Trustees who is also on the search committee, said she hoped fundraising would be featured more prominently in the final leadership profile and in conversations with candidates. Lloyd, who co-chaired the university’s $5 billion capital campaign from 2017 to 2022, said candidates should understand that they may be responsible for raising $1 billion per year when the university’s next campaign begins.

“People need to understand that expectation, because that is a deliverable that’s reported every quarter, every two months, frankly, to the Board of Trustees,” Lloyd said. “And if you’re not performing in private fundraising, it quickly relegates the other issues to a lower status. It just has to happen. We have to have it.”

UNC Greensboro Chancellor Frank Gilliam, also a member of the search committee, noted that many candidates may not pay close attention to the leadership profile, but onlookers to the process likely will take note of areas that are left out or not featured prominently.

Wilder said about 90% of the document is generally perceived by candidates to be a marketing tool for the university, while 10% of it may be considered to understand tangible qualities the university is after in a leader. Conversations with candidates are more fruitful, she said.

“There’s a million things that are part of those conversations, right? But those aren’t things that are brought into a leadership profile,” Wilder said.

Advertising the job and next steps

Wilder said the next step in the search, after the leadership profile is finalized, is to begin advertising the chancellorship in the job market. The position will be posted on a variety of job-boards, including in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Parker Executive Search will also recruit candidates from an internal database it holds, Wilder said.

Asked by attorney and committee member Jim Phillips how long it would take to recruit a pool of candidates for the job, Wilder said recruiting “can average somewhere between four and eight weeks of us being in the market.”

Cristy Page, the search committee chair, said there has been “a lot of interest” in the job since Kevin Guskiewicz announced last year he would leave the chancellorship to become the president of Michigan State University.

Page said at the end of Tuesday’s meeting that the group’s goal is “move forward and elect our next chancellor as soon as possible.” A new chancellor is expected to be appointed by the end of the calendar year, though Wilder said in April the process could conclude before then.

The public is unlikely to know who is recruited for the job, as chancellor searches in the UNC System are confidential. System policy, citing state law on personnel records, states that none of the names and identities of the chancellor candidates, semi-finalists and finalists may be released to the public, even after the search is over.

The search committee on Tuesday did not announce a date for its next meeting. Updates on future meetings will be available at