Next Gen Penn State report summarizes community feedback on presidential search

June 07, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Members of the Next Gen Penn State Advisory Group presented findings of the spring’s Next Gen Penn State listening process — which includes the feedback of more than 14,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and other community members — to the Presidential Recruitment and Selection Committee on June 1 and the Penn State Board of Trustees on June 7.

During the Presidential Recruitment and Selection Committee meeting, members Rich Bundy, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations; Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research; John M. Mason Jr., chancellor of Penn State Harrisburg; Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts; and Bonj Szczygiel, associate professor of landscape architecture and women’s studies and chair-elect of the University Faculty Senate, shared the group’s report, which is now posted online for the University community.

“Our goal was to secure insights from a broad representation of our community that could help advise us of the needs for a successful leader,” said David Kleppinger, vice chair of the Penn State Board of Trustees and chair of the Next Gen Penn State Advisory Group. “We are so pleased that we gained responses from a wide array of Penn Staters through this process. The qualitative and quantitative insights and counsel from advisory group members will be an instrumental part of a successful search for Penn State’s 19th president. We are thankful to everyone who contributed.”

Following a monthlong process this spring focused on gathering community input through a variety of mechanisms, members of the Next Gen Penn State Advisory Group compiled the report, which includes data from the survey administered by the executive search firm Spencer Stuart and its research firm, Kincentric, to share with the University community and the Presidential Recruitment and Selection Committee.

“We appreciate the work that has been done by the members of the Next Gen Penn State Advisory Group,” said Matt Schuyler, chair of the Board of Trustees. “The valuable insight of our community will be instrumental as we develop a leadership profile and move into the search phase of this process later this month. We are committed to making informed, thoughtful decisions about the needs and qualifications for the next leader of our world-class University.”

In total, the Next Gen Penn State process garnered:

  • 14,243 survey responses from students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and community members.
  • 36 listening sessions with 276 individuals from a variety of University groups, including Faculty Senate, University Staff Advisory Council, Student Leaders Roundtable and the President’s Commissions for Equity.
  • 305 feedback form comments received directly through the Next Gen Penn State website.
  • 1,821 candidate nominations captured in the listening sessions and survey.

The report encompasses feedback sought on key priorities, qualifications, experiences, critical skills and leadership capabilities for the next president, as well as the distinctive characteristics, challenges and opportunities for the University as a whole.

Community feedback

The following are highlights from the Next Gen Penn State Advisory Group Report encompassing survey results, individual comments and listening sessions across stakeholder groups.

What makes Penn State unique:

  • Pride
  • Community
  • Excellence

Institutional opportunities:

  • Elevate research profile and funding
  • Evolve land-grant mission
  • Advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts
  • Improve affordability
  • Innovate in education and student experience
  • Differentiate brand
  • Innovate ways of working

Institutional challenges:

  • Resources and funding
  • Changing demographics
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Affordability
  • Education and student experience
  • Brand and reputation
  • Internal processes and structure

Career experience:

  • Leadership of a complex enterprise
  • Academic leadership experience and/or deep understanding and appreciation of scholarly and academic values
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Demonstrated stewardship of a breadth of assets and fiscal acumen
  • Complex stakeholder engagement internally and externally
  • Transformational/change leadership
  • Track record and commitment to student success

Leadership capabilities:

  • Strategic thinking and entrepreneurial vision
  • Empowering leadership that results in strong teams
  • Collaboration and influencing
  • A sense of accountability and responsibility
  • Values-driven

Personal and professional attributes:

  • Integrity/authenticity
  • Transparent and effective communications
  • Builds trust/confidence
  • Appreciation for shared governance
  • Capacity for decision-making
  • Empathy and humility
  • Inspirational

Next steps

Trustees Mark H. Dambly and Julie Anna Potts, co-chairs of the Presidential Recruitment and Selection Committee, said they were grateful for the work of the Next Gen Advisory Group and that the committee, aided by the search firm Spencer Stuart, will now finalize a position profile. Potts added that advisory group members will continue to be a helpful part of the process.

“We are thrilled with the insights gleaned from this process,” Potts said. “Although the official duties of the Next Gen Penn State Advisory Group are complete, we invite their continued participation to review and provide input on the position statement and provide insights for the Presidential Recruitment and Selection Committee on the types of questions the committee should focus on through its screening and interview process.”

The position profile will outline the qualifications and attributes for successful candidates prior to the launch of the national search.

Later this month, a public-facing webpage on the Board of Trustees website will launch featuring:

  • The leadership position profile;
  • Contact information to submit candidate nominations; and
  • Anticipated presidential search timeline and process.

Penn State community members can contact the Board of Trustees at or the executive search firm at with additional questions and input.

Last Updated June 08, 2021