Ohio State is continuing with the search for the new university president after current President Michael V. Drake announced his retirement in November. Credit: Jack Long | Special Projects Director

Amid abundant, fast-paced changes at Ohio State, the university presidential transition is continuing as planned.

The university released a presidential job description on the Board of Trustees’ website Thursday — despite the COVID-19 outbreak — outlining the qualities, skills and attributes the university community wants to see in Ohio State’s 16th president as solicited by the search’s advisory subcommittee from across the different campuses.

“Our committee did span a fair breadth and we looked at all the topics carefully and tried to make sure we were representative of what everyone wanted,” Susan Olesik, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and co-chair of the advisory subcommittee, said. “I think we did a good job. I hope faculty, staff and students will agree with me.”

Current University President Michael V. Drake announced in November that he will retire from the position at the end of the academic year and remain as a faculty member. At a February board meeting, Drake was approved for a post-presidency contract that would pay out up to $3.3 million if he remains with the university through June 2024.

The job description — officially named the presidential profile — identified leadership qualities and character traits desired in candidates, as well as opportunities for success the next president will face.

The next university president should be effective and charismatic with higher education experience who can coordinate the many resources, organizations and external entities associated with Ohio State, according to the profile. 

“In summary, the presidency at Ohio State is an opportunity to have a lasting impact at a scale few other universities could match,” the profile reads.

The chosen candidate will have the opportunity to increase access to higher education for students from low- and moderate-income families, elevate partnerships with regional campuses and become a community leader in Columbus and Ohio, according to the profile.

The profile’s expected mid-March release was met despite university changes due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Drake declared a university state of emergency Sunday to formalize some of these adjustments, such as extending the tenure clock and closing campus buildings.

Olesik said the search process has not yet been slowed by the outbreak and the advisory subcommittee continued contact with Isaacson, Miller of Washington, D.C. — the executive search firm retained by the university — during the creation of the profile.

Isaacson, Miller will use the presidential profile to identify, interview and present candidates to the search committee, according to the services agreement between the firm and the university. The firm’s website says it is conducting business by phone and video conferencing because of the outbreak.

“We care deeply about the institutions we serve, our friends and business partners, and our colleagues, and are confident that by working together we will successfully manage through this challenging time,” according to the firm’s website.

The search will be conducted in accordance with government and university meeting and travel guidelines, university spokesperson Ben Johnson said in an email.

“The presidential search is ongoing, but the situation is fluid and the board will make adjustments as needed,” Johnson said.

Lewis Von Thaer, university trustee and chair of the search’s selection subcommittee, said at a Feb.14 public forum at Thompson Library that the process timeline is tentative and there is no requirement to have the new president in place by the beginning of the next academic year.

“We will execute a process that hopefully will be able to get to a decision before the new school year starts,” Von Thaer said. “But I think the search committee and the trustees are also committed that we won’t settle for a substandard candidate if we just haven’t found the right person yet.”

The presidential profile was released in tandem with a university portrait web page for candidates to gain a deeper knowledge of Ohio State, Olesik said.

“It’s common for universities to write a 20-page document with lots of pictures and things of that sort, but we decided we were going to go high tech and show the information that way,” Olesik said.

The advisory subcommittee held six public forums — four of which were at regional campuses — to solicit feedback from the university community in creating the document, Olesik said. The subcommittee also met with student, faculty and staff subgroups.

Olesik said the subcommittee met weekly throughout the process to discuss the feedback it received.

“We started, basically, seeing consistency across topics that people were interested in, in terms of attributes that were wanted for this individual and we wrote a draft,” she said.

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