EDWARDSVILLE — Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn announced Monday that Randall Pembrook will be the school’s new chancellor, ending a nine-month search. The selection is pending approval from the SIU Board of Trustees.
“On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank all of the SIUE stakeholder groups for their assistance and support during this process,” Gireesh Gupchup, chair of the chancellor search advisory committee, said in a statement. “The search committee should be complimented for its dedication to the task of selection a chancellor who fits SIUE’s mission, vision and values ... we are extremely pleased that Dr. Pembrook has agreed to lead SIUE as we continue our success.”
The search for the new chancellor began after the previous chancellor, Julie Furst-Bowe, resigned in August 2015 to accept a position at Chippewa Valley Technical College. SIUE appointed Stephen Hansen interim chancellor and formed a committee in October 2015 to lead the search for a new chancellor.
“The committee was appointed by the president of the SIU system,” Gupchup, who is also the dean of the School of Pharmacy, said. “The president’s office looked at all the different stakeholder groups at SIUE and reached out to each of those groups and accordingly appointed a member from each of those groups.”
Gupchup said stakeholders include the faculty senate, student senate, board of trustees, the chancellor’s office and alumni.
“The role of the committee was to come up with the job description, develop a website and then advertise the job,” Gupchup said.
He said the committee also processed applications, answered questions from candidates, interviewed candidates and arranged for meetings and interviews for semifinalists and finalists.
While the committee served an integral role in the search process, Gupchup said it did have limits.
“Our job was to recommend processes and what is going to happen,” he explained. “We were advisory. We didn’t make any decisions. We didn’t decide who the next chancellor is. Our job was to make recommendations.”
He said Randy Dunn, president of the SIU system, and the board of trustees make the final decision on who to hire as the next chancellor.
One of the first steps in hiring the new chancellor, according to Gupchup, was writing the job description. To do this, the committee reached out to the community.
“Before we developed the job description and website, we wanted to get input from the different stakeholder groups,” he said. “So we did what we called ‘listening sessions.’ We went to students, we went to the faculty senate, we went to the community and so on and we listened to what they said they wanted in the next chancellor, what they said the challenges were for SIUE in the future, what they said were the positive points of SIUE and any other comments.”
The final job description included multiple required characteristics and experiences, along with more than a dozen desired characteristics.
After developing the job description and website, the committee began accepting applications in November 2015, according to its website, which was taken down shortly after the announcement that Dunn selected Pembrook. Gupchup said they received applications through March 2016, and received 65 applications.
The committee hired Witt/Kieffer, a prominent executive search firm, to assist in its efforts in January 2016. According to Witt/Kieffer, a position like SIUE’s typically receives 30 to 40 applications.
“Their role is to shepherd the process along so that the committee is following processes that are contemporary search processes that are used at universities across the country,” Gupchup said of the firm. “Witt/Kieffer is the preferred search firm for the Illinois Higher Education Consortium.”
After processing all the applications, the committee held 11 airport interviews with candidates in March 2016, Gupchup said. After the airport interviews, the committee narrowed the field down to four finalists.
“Based on the data we had, plus the airport interview, we basically picked the four (candidates) that rose to the top,” Gupchup said. “We had other really good candidates, but these four rose to the top.”
Gupchup said the committee used the job description they created to help decide which candidates would become finalists.
“You match these finalists with the job description. You match them with the desired and the required criteria,” he said. “It’s really looking at the desired characteristics the candidates have and how that fits at SIUE.”
In April 2016, the committee announced the finalists. They were Gloria J. Gibson, senior vice president and provost at Morgan State University; Cheryl D. Lovell, special adviser to the chancellor of the Colorado State University system; Andrew Rogerson, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sonoma State University; and Randall Pembrook, vice president for academic affairs at Washburn University.
In addition to announcing the finalists, April saw the committee conduct on-campus interviews and hold open forums that allowed attendees to ask the candidates questions. Gupchup said the overall feedback from the campus after these events was positive.
Recently, Gupchup and the committee delivered a report to the president and the board of trustees. This final recommendation did not single out one candidate.
“The final recommendation was basically a report on the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate as seen by the stakeholders and the committee,” Gupchup said.
At this point, the committee’s work was done, as the president and the board of trustees evaluated the information. Gupchup said the president could have reconvened the committee if they chose to not hire a new chancellor.
Gupchup said he believes the next chancellor will have a desirable position because of the university’s many benefits.
“We have a lot of positives. We’re a well-managed university. We’ve been able to weather the budget storm because we’re well-managed,” he said. “We have a lot of positives in terms of the types of programs we have. We have great people here and people make a university. We have a lot of opportunities at SIUE. In general, SIUE is a university that is trending upward.”