Narrowing down the fishing pool

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Narrowing down the fishing pool

Retiring President Stephen Gould will likely soon have a replacement.

Stephanie Rebek, Staff Reporter

Eighty-six people applied to be Lakeland’s next president, nearly double the amount from a year ago, according to Chair of the Presidential Search Committee (PSC) Jeff Ottum.

The PSC narrowed the 86 applicants down to about a dozen after scoring each applicant’s cover letter, curriculum vitae, résumé, fit with Lakeland’s mission, and ability to lead, build relationships, and fundraise.

After reducing the number of candidates, the PSC completed the first round of interviews with the chosen candidates. Within the next two to three weeks, the committee will conduct a second round of interviews.

“Coming out of the first round of interviews raised our [PSC’s] morale. Until we started meeting them [applicants] and interviewing them, we really didn’t know whether or not the person was as good in person as on paper. But these candidates are good people and experienced folks. We continue to get more energized and encouraged as we go through the process,” Ottum said.

Ottum added that the PSC hopes prospective candidates will be visiting the campus to meet with selected representatives of the college in late March or early April. The committee has not yet determined how they will select students, staff, faculty, or alumni to interact and communicate with the candidates.

“We [members of the PSC] feel that we have a really good pool of candidates overall,” Ottum said. “The candidates are all very interesting and of various backgrounds, which is very encouraging.”

The PSC went through two complete rounds of interviews/searches and had about 45 total applicants at this time last year. After hiring Witt/Kieffer, a consultant agency, this year, that number nearly doubled.

Ottum said he believes the number doubled due to both Witt/Kieffer’s commitment to confidentiality and constantly searching for quality candidates. Witt/Kieffer advised the PSC not to hold open forums, like they did last year, in which the Lakeland community could meet finalists. If candidates interested in applying knew their current employers could discover they were applying for a different job, they might be discouraged from applying, Witt/Kieffer representatives essentially said, according to Ottum. Thus, maybe confidentiality was a reason for the explosion of candidates.

But what makes a good candidate?

“What it really comes down to is ‘Who is the best fit?’ We have very high standards, and we are not just going to compromise for someone who is not right for us [Lakeland]. They [the candidates] all have great experience, and what we need to find is someone who can bring that experience to Lakeland,” said Ottum.

The goal is to have a new president in place by the end of this school year, when President Stephen Gould has said he will retire.

Ottum said the PSC has invited the dozen or so candidates back, and that they have all been very complimentary and interested in Lakeland.

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