Community offers input at third presidential search forum

March 23, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Members of the Penn State community came together in person and online on Friday (March 22) afternoon to discuss the qualities they would like to see in a new University president and the challenges and opportunities facing Penn State's next leader.

Dan Hagen, professor of dairy and animal science and vice chair of the University Presidential Search and Screen Committee, welcomed attendees for the third forum offering community members the chance to give input into the search for the University's 18th president.

Michael Baer and Jackie Mildner of the executive search firm Isaacson, Miller led the discussion, asking and answering questions and receiving comments from attendees.

The first two forums held Thursday addressed a wide range of characteristics faculty, staff and students desired in a new president -- from building on Penn State's academic and research prowess to strong management skills -- and noted what would make Penn State attractive to top candidates.

Attendees Friday included 200 online viewers at Commonwealth Campus sites, some of whom expressed that the new president must successfully address the needs of the entire University.

"It’s important for the president to be engaged with the campuses outside of University Park," one commenter said, while another said the president should have a regular presence at Commonwealth Campuses.

Another added that it is important for the president to foster strategic collaboration in online education among Commonwealth Campuses and the World Campus.

Attendees said a successful candidate should be skilled at both private fundraising and securing federal and Commonwealth funds.

“One of the premier qualities for a new president is can they raise money,” one suggested.

A faculty member in attendance said the president should “be a strong leader in the academy,” with an emphasis on teaching, research and service. He pointed out the success of Penn State programs in the most recent, data-based National Research Council rankings and said the next president has the opportunity to take the University to even greater heights in academics and research.

Students attended as well, and one said that he and others want a president who is committed to and has a history of embracing diversity. “At the end of the day, they need to bring people together, because they can’t do it by themselves.” 

Others expressed a desire for an individual who values sustainability in University practices and curricula, and several said a new president should be transparent in decision-making while considering varying viewpoints.

Asked whether candidates from academia, corporations or politics would be considered, Mildner said Isaacson, Miller would not limit efforts to one particular sector.

“We will cast a wide net and introduce people with different perspectives to the committee,” she said, adding that the firm also would call on various sources for recommendations.

Additional presidential search forums are expected to be planned in the near future.

Current President Rodney Erickson has announced that he will retire no later than June 30, 2014.

Mildner concluded the forum by reminding attendees that they are encouraged to continue to submit comment through the presidential search website, where the public can find updates, offer input, learn about those tasked with finding the University’s next leader and view the history of the Penn State presidency. Submissions are sent directly to Isaacson, Miller.

Faculty, staff, students and alumni also are encouraged to share their insight and make confidential nominations by emailing Other comments on the process can be emailed to Links to both of these addresses can be found on the new site.

Additional news about the presidential search process is available at

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 13, 2013