Forum attendees seek inspiration and strong leadership credentials in next president
The U-M president who follows Mary Sue Coleman will need to inspire the university community to collaborate, inspire potential donors to give, and inspire legislators to increase support for an institution with a major role in rebuilding Michigan's economy.
Those were among the comments presented Tuesday to members of the Board of Regents and the Presidential Search Advisory Committee at the first two meetings in a series of six public forums to gather broad input on the search for the next U-M president. Coleman has announced she will conclude her tenure as president in July 2014.
The one-hour forums took place at UM-Flint's University Center and at the Biomedical Science Research Building auditorium on the Medical Campus.
Alison Ranney, of the search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, said the firm ultimately this fall would "bring the broadest deepest richest pool of candidates for the Board of Regents to consider."
Dr. Peter Farrehi, assistant professor of cardiology, was among several who spoke at the BSRB session, attended by about 20 faculty, staff and students.
"We need a new leader on campus that will inspire. The state is in dire need of the university"s leadership," Farrehi said, adding the broader university will benefit if all three campuses — Flint, Dearborn and Ann Arbor — work together more effectively.
Earlier in the day, about 30 members of the UM-Flint community participated in a forum there. Faculty, staff and students said they hoped the regents would select someone who would promote strong collaboration between the Ann Arbor campus and the regional campuses in Flint and Dearborn, yet help to preserve the unique cultures of those campuses.
Flint attendees said they hoped for a president who would make regular visits, someone willing to take chances and with broad experience as a university professor and administrator. "We need someone who is as comfortable with poetry as aerospace technology and recombinant DNA," said one man.
At the BSRB session, several speakers encouraged the committee to consider candidates with experience handling a major medical center.
"If the candidate didn't have experience with health care I would be greatly concerned. They need to understand the incredible complexity of the work we do every day," said Marcy Waldinger, chief administrative officer at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
She added the new president would need to reach out for support from alumni, the public and the state, and work with other medical institutions to capitalize on new government programs to broaden health care.
Kate Barald, professor of cell and developmental biology and biomedical engineering, said that a new president must focus on rebuilding reduced federal support for physician training.
"Mary Sue Coleman is one of the best fundraisers I've ever seen. She's been absolutely fantastic," Barald said. The new president, she said, needs to bring team-building skills and capitalize on collaborative efforts.
Others stressed that a new president will need to understand how Michigan stands globally, and how global efforts might benefit students and faculty on campus.
Medical student Mohammad Dar wondered if demographics might show that the number of students with means is growing on campus, considering the number of upscale high-rises being built to house them. "Students of needs see less of themselves around campus," he said, citing one of the challenges the next president will face.
Regent Kathy White, who is coordinating the campus forums on behalf of the Board of Regents, said she hopes to hear more suggestions during the upcoming forums. "I look forward to the sessions next week and meeting with the communities that are heavily invested in the University of Michigan and our success," she said.