Must a college president hold a doctorate?
- Some faculty members at the University of Montana are disappointed that a job description for the university's presidential vacancy could be approved with a doctorate being a "preferred" credential, instead of a required one.
- The Montana Standard reports on the potential change under consideration from the school's presidential search committee and the feedback from faculty members who say that a president without a terminal degree would have a difficult time understanding and leading a faculty with little familiarity with teaching or research.
- Officials with AGB Search, the firm supporting the school in drafting the job description for its presidential search, say they expect most applicants to come from traditional higher education backgrounds, but Montana should be open to the possibility of its best leadership fit possibly coming from a non-traditional corporate setting.
It is important for faculty to understand that search firms and consultants only draft or recommend changes to position descriptions based upon the needs and desires expressed by a board of trustees. So if the board indicates that the school's greatest needs are fundraising, legislative lobbying, corporate partnerships or stronger organizational leadership, the firm may recommend a search which invites non-traditional candidates to apply.
But this form of candidate cultivation requires the board to be more transparent with faculty, which many institutions tend to forget or to refrain from doing in leadership decisions. Without this engagement, a presidential search, selection and installation can be mired in controversy, and can lead to a president encountering a new role with more opposition and anxiety from the campus than necessary.
It also shows how limited the talent pool can be for the 21st-century college presidency, a career in which all kinds of professionals know well how limited funds and short patience for boards can limit the number of years given to any candidate, regardless of a candidate's background or potential to thrive in the role.