True to his word, state Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Hank Bounds is not rushing the process to find a permanent president for Mississippi University for Women.
Bounds announced Monday the search to name Dr. Claudia Limbert”s replacement would not begin until 2011. The reason, he said Wednesday, is the ongoing search for presidential candidates for Alcorn State University and Jackson State University.
“It”s physically impossible to do more than two (searches) at one time,” said Bounds. “Because of the time it takes to conduct listening sessions, to review applicants, first- and second-round interviews and campus visits.”
Parker Executive Search, a firm based in Atlanta, has been tapped to handle the MUW president search while Arlington, Va.-based Ayers and Associates will handle the ASU and JSU searches, but Bounds says the state College Board will be involved in most aspects of the searches and cannot split its attention three ways.
Ayers” consultation fees are 30 percent of the first-year compensation of the presidents selected for ASU and JSU. Based on current salaries, the pay would be $139,031, according to the College Board”s consulting services agreement with Ayers and Associates. Actual compensation could vary depending on salaries for the new presidents. Other billable expenses, including office supplies, travel and lodging are not to exceed $11,123 without written consent from the College Board. Advertising costs are estimated at $14,400, and background checks are estimated at $6,500.
A contract has not yet been finalized with Parker Executive Search, said Caron Blanton, director of communications for the College Board.
Bounds says the MUW search was intentionally scheduled last to give interim president Allegra Brigham time to address pressing issues.
“One is the split alumni associations,” said Bounds. “It”s important that we work on that issue. I think we have the right person in place as interim. She”s a daughter of The W. She”s worked there. She”s well known in the community and if anyone can resolve this, it”s her.”
Brigham continues to meet with representatives from both the disaffiliated Mississippi”s First Alumnae Association and MUW”s current Alumni Association, but says the two groups have not met since sharing lunch July 22 at the Columbus Country Club. At that meeting of the Lowndes County Chapter of the First Alumnae Association, Brigham apologized to both groups on behalf of the university for an ugly split which culminated in 2008 with a court-ordered injunction barring the First Alumnae group from claiming official ties to the university, including using the college”s name and logos. Prior to then, the group was called the MUW Alumnae Association.
“As with any fractured relationship, it will take time. But I am optimistic,” said Brigham.
Bounds also cited financial difficulties and decreasing enrollment as factors which could make the MUW presidency an unattractive job.
“Allegra is reviewing all those issues. She obviously brings a certain business sense to the job that will be helpful in dealing with the budget cuts,” said Bounds, referring to Brigham”s previous role as chief executive officer of 4-County Electric Power Association. “All universities have financial situations. The stress may be higher at The W because of the size of the university and competition nearby on all sides from Tuscaloosa and Starkville.”
All state universities in Mississippi suffered 13 percent budget cuts in 2010. Bounds says the expiration of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds in 2010 and the poor economy could lead to a 26 percent cut in funds in 2012 from 2010 appropriation levels.
Brigham says enrollment figures for the new school year are on track to meet or exceed last year”s numbers and the entire faculty is working to enhance recruitment and retention. The university also continues to work with Mississippi State University to identify potential money-saving partnerships.
Alumni relations, enrollment and budget cuts have been front and center for Brigham since she took the help at MUW in July. She admits the school year has added to her workload but she enjoys the challenges and is willing to remain at the school “as long as it takes.”
Bounds said the entire search process for a new president typically takes four months. An advisory committee consisting of faculty, students and alumni will be formed to present concerns and priorities to the search committee, which will use the information to narrow the field of applicants.
MUW”s advisory committee has not been formed and no deadline for applications has been set.
“It didn”t make sense to me to start any part of the process then wait around four months to start,” said Bounds.
Neither Bounds nor Brigham know if Parker Search has received any applications for the president”s job, but one person who definitely won”t be the next president is Brigham. State College Board policy prevents interim presidents from applying for the permanent appointment because in-house campaigning while serving in an interim role would create a conflict of interest.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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