NCCU chancellor search focused on several key areas

N.C. Central University’s next chancellor had best bring fundraising prowess to the job, along with the ability to nurture the institution’s ties to other key players on the Triangle’s education, business and political scene, the campus search committee says.

But the successor to former Chancellor Debra Saunders-White also needs a “students-first mindset” and has to see to it the rest of the university’s administration and staff does too, the committee said in the “leadership statement” that’s more or less NCCU’s help-wanted ad for a new chief.

The ultimate decision on who will replace Saunders-White, who died of cancer late in November, is up to UNC system President Margaret Spellings and the system Board of Governors.

The search committee will screen candidates and recommend three finalists, first to campus trustees and ultimately to the system leadership.

Along the way, it’s working with an Atlanta-based recruiter, Diversified Search, and members have said they’d like to have a new chancellor hired and on the job for the start of the fall semester. The leadership statement gives candidates until April 10 to round out their applications.

The emphasis the document put on fundraising wasn’t a surprise, given that it’s a big part of the job nowadays for university leaders across the country.

But it has special significance for NCCU because campus officials and trustees about two weeks before Saunders-White’s death shelved, for a while at least, the idea of launching a major capital campaign.

The delay came at the urging of a consultant who numbered the prospect of a “leadership in transition,” the lack of an up-to-date campus strategic plan and the need to reinforce the campus fundraising staff among the reasons to hold off.

Interim Chancellor Johnson Akinleye and Vice Chancellor for Advancement Harriet Davis acknowledged the shortfalls, and said the consultant’s findings and advice were not a surprise.

In the meantime, Davis argues the need for NCCU to boost annual alumni giving, and the leadership statement gave a nod to that by saying the new chancellor has to cultivate the school’s graduates so they develop “a lifelong relationship” with the school.

The students-first point stressed that the chancellor should be “accessible to students” and involved in their activities. NCCU remains a small campus in the 16-university UNC system, with 8,096 students, about 78 percent of those undergraduates.

And the statement signals that the committee’s looking for a new chief who can raise the profile of a campus that has “a strong foundational platform on which to grow.”

That will require experience in “managing, supporting and promoting a research enterprise in a university that is positioned for growth,” it said, acknowledging elsewhere that NCCU offers only one Ph.D. degree, in “integrated biosciences.”

Follow Ray Gronberg on Twitter @rcgronberg