NCCU panel considers qualities for next leader

System president lays out wish list, urges group to ‘get it right’

jstancill@newsobserver.comSeptember 6, 2012 

— UNC system President Tom Ross presented a wish list Thursday for what he wants in the next chancellor at N.C. Central University – a person of integrity who has strong management instincts, an inclusive style, people skills, creativity and a knack for community outreach and fundraising.

Ross gave his advice to the search committee that recently launched its quest for NCCU’s next leader. The panel met for several hours to interview search consultants and map out the process for finding a leader for the 9,000-student historically black university in Durham. The committee includes trustees, faculty, alumni, community leaders and students.

Harold Epps, an NCCU alumnus and trustee who chairs the search committee, said finding the right leader has never been more important because higher education faces extraordinary fiscal challenges.

“That takes an even more effective leader to manage and balance all the decisions,” he said. “So I think you need someone who can ideally give you seven to 10 years. You’ve got to get it right.”

The next leader will replace Charlie Nelms, who abruptly retired after five years on the job. Nelms had focused on toughening academic standards for students in an effort to improve graduation rates.

Ross advised the committee to find someone who can push NCCU to greater heights while also remaining true to its role as a community leader in Durham. But he predicted the search committee will have no trouble. NCCU, he said, has more upside potential than any university in the UNC system.

“This particular institution, I can tell you, will attract some very, very strong candidates because it’s a plumb job,” Ross said. “It’s a great institution. It’s got a law school, it’s got strong graduate programs, it’s got great facilities. It will bring some real talent to the table and that’s a good thing.”

Ross encouraged the panel to look inside and outside academia as it recruits candidates.

He asked the group to bring him the names of three unranked finalists; he will choose one to recommend to the UNC Board of Governors for final approval.

In the coming weeks, the committee will come up with a job description and hold forums for faculty, staff, students, alumni and the Durham community.

Most of the sessions will be held on Sept. 26. Times and locations will be announced soon.

The process could take four to six months, and search committee members signed confidentiality agreements to keep candidates’ names secret.

While some universities have released the names of finalists toward the end of the search process, that kind of openness was discouraged by UNC system officials. It can scare away candidates, they cautioned.

“You know the old cliché about ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?’” said Ann Lemmon, associate vice president for human resources in the UNC system. “Without the gambling, you’re supposed to think of every search committee meeting as Vegas.”

Stancill: 919-829-4559

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