The University recently began their search for the new president. Graphic by Elizabeth Wong.

To prepare for University President David Dooley’s retirement in June, the University of Rhode Island recently announced the search committee and hiring process for its new president. 

Beginning last week, both a search committee and an advisory committee are being utilized to organize the process. 

The search committee is chaired by alumnus and former CVS/Caremark CEO Thomas M. Ryan, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees. Other members of the search committee include alumna Margo Cook, the chair of the Board of Trustees; Megan Echevarria, the president of Faculty Senate; Madyson Ramsay, the vice president of Student Senate; as well as many other Board members, college deans and professors from across the University. There are 16 members in total.

Ultimately, the search committee is responsible for the hiring process and decision of the applicants. 

The advisory committee is co-chaired by Echevarria and Lil O’Rourke, the president of the URI Foundation. There are 23 members in total including various professors, department chairs, community leaders and a student representative. 

The job of the advisory committee is to help the search committee engage with the University community throughout the presidential search process. This committee is responsible for hosting events to develop student engagement and conducting community-wide surveys to better understand what students hope to see in their next university leader. 

“The purpose of that outreach is to really get a good understanding from those of us in that community that aren’t on the actual search committee, what are our hopes and aspirations for the next leader of the institution?” Kelly Mahoney, the executive director of external relations and communications at URI, as well as a representative for the Board of Trustees, the search committee and the advisory committee, said. “The advisory committee will collect all of this input and feedback and work with the search committee to put together a really clear presidential profile.” 

Once the advisory committee completes all of their open forums and student surveys, they will compile a description of the next university president that represents the student interests discussed throughout the process. This will be presented to the search committee, from which potential candidates will be recruited. 

The University is working with search firm Isaacson, Miller, who will work to recruit candidates that match the community’s suggestions. Isaacson, Miller is the same search firm that was used to hire Dooley. 

“There are certain things the University is committed to that are not going to change and are like a requirement [in a candidate],” Mahoney said. 

According to Mahoney, these things include the emphasis on student success, maintaining a strong retention rate, a large focus on diversity and inclusion efforts throughout campus, an adherence to the University’s fundraising goals and a commitment to the larger Rhode Island community and university partnerships. However, she also anticipates that the open forums will continue to define the qualities and search for the next president. 

Dooley himself is hoping to see similar goals for his successor. 

“Most of all, I just hope that the University continues to be a place that attracts the kind of students that it does, continues to be a place that fosters their success, continues to emphasize graduation on time and prepares students for leadership,” Dooley said. “I do know that also all those things are important to the search committee and to the Board of Trustees; that’s the kind of leadership they’ll be looking for.”

As the search committee begins to interview candidates and finalists for the position, the search will shift to a confidential approach, as to not jeopardize the confidentiality of these individuals. 

Mahoney said that the search has been impacted by COVID-19 and resulted in the digital format for students and faculty. However, she believes that the search taking place during this time will be a good thing for the institution overall, as well as the future leader. 

“This could actually be the opportune time for someone to really step up into this role, because they’re inheriting an institution that’s on the rise, that’s on the move, and those are going to be important opportunities coming out of the crisis,” she said.

Thus far, the advisory committee has held multiple virtual town hall meetings for various campus stakeholders and will continue to do so over the upcoming months. At these meetings, students are given the opportunity to speak to various committee members about their concerns, desires and hopes for the next university president. There is also a survey for students to take where they can contribute these ideas as well.