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YSU search consultant confident of solid candidate pool

Published: Wed, April 2, 2014 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Denise Dick



The pool of candidates for Youngstown State University’s next president may be smaller, but the consultant leading the search believes it will be a “solid pool.”

“We’re doing the search a little differently,” said Jamie P. Ferrare, managing principal at AGB Search of Washington, D.C.

The firm is conducting the search for YSU’s ninth president and waiving its fee since Randy Dunn, netted in the 2013 search by AGB, resigned to take another job after only eight months at YSU. The university still will have to pay for expenses from the search.

“When you have a short-term period or quicker turnaround — this is really rare — you have to have an expedited or more-focused search,” Ferrare said.

The position has been advertised in higher-education publications, and the application deadline is April 14.

“When you open it up to everyone, you get a little bit of everything,” Ferrare said. “I’ve seen high school principals, a dentist, military people. They’re great people but not typically what a university is looking for in their president.”

Instead, this search will focus on serious candidates, he said.

“I believe we’ll have a good, solid pool,” the consultant said.

Earlier this week, Martin Abraham, dean of the YSU College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, said he planned to apply for the presidency. Abraham also is a finalist for provost at Northern Illinois University.

Jim Tressel, for whom some community and business leaders have launched a public campaign supporting, hasn’t applied. Tressel, former coach of the YSU and Ohio State football teams, hasn’t publicly said whether he intends to seek the YSU presidency. He did apply last month to be president at the University of Akron, where he works as executive vice president for student success.

Dr. Sudershan Garg, chairman of the YSU trustees, said that according to the search firm, the best candidates often wait until the last minute to apply.

Ferrare acknowledged that the YSU search has some issues working against it. The first is timing.

Late August to the first of March is regarded as the season when people in the industry are looking to change jobs.

The second is questions that Dunn’s brief tenure might raise in some potential applicants’ minds.

Media coverage has detailed Dunn’s explanation that he was asked to apply for the job he took at Southern Illinois University and that his resignation was as much a surprise to YSU trustees as it was to the search firm, Ferrare said.

“There are questions: Is there anything missing? Anything missing in the story, issues that didn’t surface?” he said.

YSU has had two relatively short-term presidents in a row, Ferrare said. Before Dunn, Cynthia Anderson served three years as president, retiring last year.

“We deal with it as honestly as we can,” he said. “I don’t think there are issues that are any different than any other university,”

AGB does a lot of research into institutions as well as candidates, Ferrare said. Though YSU is dealing with the same challenges as other universities regarding state cuts, it also has a lot of upsides.

In conversations with candidates, Ferrare said AGB will make it clear that YSU “expects and deserves someone who is going to be committed to the institution.”

After the application deadline, trustees will determine how many candidates to interview, Garg said. The board is considering interviewing candidates via Skype in the first round rather than interviewing them at the airport as a way to keep expenses down, he said.

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