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Campus looks for Cohon successor

The search to replace University President Jared L. Cohon, who will be stepping down on June 30, 2013, is under way.

Ray Lane, the chairman of Carnegie Mellon’s Board of Trustees, named the official search committee of 17 members in a letter published on the university’s website last February. The committee will be directed by Jim Rohr, the chairman and CEO of PNC Financial Services Group and chair of the board’s Nominating and Governance Committee.

This committee includes eight university trustees and eight faculty members in addition to Rohr. The recommendation from this committee will be submitted to the Board of Trustees for the selection of Carnegie Mellon’s next president.

Materials science and engineering professor Anthony Rollett is a leader of the presidential search committee. He described his role as “working with basically everybody in the university to try to identify candidates.”

In a Feb. 12 message, Lane wrote, “While the committee, aided by a search firm, will lead the process and ultimately recommend a candidate to the board, every member of the university community — students, alumni, faculty and staff — will have the opportunity to participate and provide input.”

The official search timeline consists of three phases: the quiet phase, the public phase, and the final phase.

The quiet phase takes place from February to August. It consists of the proper formation and establishment of a search committee, as well as the inclusion of a firm to assist in the search. The public phase will take place from September 2012 to spring 2013, during which candidates will be sought and narrowed down to a small list. The final phase, scheduled for the spring of 2013, is when the final group of candidates will be interviewed and the search committee will make its recommendation.

The official announcement of Carnegie Mellon’s new president is expected to occur before the end of the spring 2013 semester.

In order to make the university community aware of the happenings surrounding the presidential search, and to gather public opinion on what Carnegie Mellon should look for in a new president, a series of public forums was held last week.

The student town hall was opened by Student Body President Jake Flittner, a senior mechanical engineering and engineering and public policy double major. Flittner said that “the overall purpose of this town hall is to gather information for a white paper ... and also to help the presidential search committee to find aspects and characteristics for the next president.”

The “white paper” will be drafted by the faculty committee and then used to create a job statement and description for potential candidates.
Cohon spoke at both the student and faculty town halls, but was unable to attend the staff forum. Rohr spoke in his stead.

Adam Rauf, the president of Staff Council, opened the staff forum.

“We as the staff members are kind of like the troops on the ground, so to speak. We know all the interworking of the university. That’s why it’s so critical for us to make an impact,” Rauf said in his opening address.

Each of the three forums followed the same format: After a brief presentation on the changes in Carnegie Mellon during Cohon’s tenure, the audience contributed questions about and hopes for the next president.

Students called for a president who pays attention to research, is socially responsible, continues to improve student life, maintains financial security, and balances science and the arts within Carnegie Mellon.

When expressing their thoughts on the traits that should be held by the new Carnegie Mellon president, responses focused on approachability and an understanding of what one student dubbed “the Carnegie Mellon spirit.”

At the staff meeting, audience members expressed concerns that some staff members, especially lower-paid employees, felt like they were struggling financially. Others pointed out that Carnegie Mellon was shy as an institution, stating that the next president needed to be a “cheerleader in chief.”

The faculty forum was opened by Irene Fonseca, a member of the presidential search committee, stating that the town hall was to “construct a shared vision of the characteristics ... we’d like to see in the next president.”

The faculty delivered responses focused on limiting restrictions and bureaucracy within the university. They also sought a president who would better interdepartmental relations.

Mathematics professor John Mackey described his vision for the next president by saying, “We need a very aggressive, yet thoughtful person.... Our danger is becoming complacent.”

Rollett said that “no preference is being stated or discussed” as to whether the next president would come from within the university community. Regardless, one staff member did request that the next president come from outside of Carnegie Mellon.

In addition, Rollett encouraged students to express their suggestions regarding the search either on the official website or by finding individuals related to the presidential search, whose names can be found online.

A forum for alumni will be held during Spring Carnival.