Baylor recruits private firm for ongoing presidential search

Baylor brings on private firm to aid in their search for a new president. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer

Baylor announced its recruitment of search firm Heidrick & Struggles to aid in the selection of Baylor’s next president in an email Friday.

Heidrick & Struggles specializes in the fields of executive search, culture shaping, leadership consulting.

“We also welcome the expertise of Heidrick & Struggles. They are an exceptional organization, international in scope, and they will conduct a very thorough and far-reaching search process for the university’s 15th president,” Bob Brewton, chair of the presidential search committee, said in the email.

After receiving nine proposals from search firms around the country, the presidential search committee narrowed the list to three, and each firm came to Baylor and met with the committee. Presidential search committee vice chair Andrea Dixon said the vote was unanimous to hire Heidrick & Struggles to aid them in their search.

“They have a very, very strong national reputation in all sectors,” Dixon said. “In addition, they have a track record of high placement in university settings. They got and understood what it means to be a Christian research university. The principles on the search were able to speak to their own faith and explain what Baylor means to them.”

Baylor also reported that the committee has completed over 80 hours of listening sessions, and it has received more than 600 individual input forms through the presidential search website.

The committee has completed two listening sessions in Dallas, two in Waco, two in Houston and has sessions planned for today in both San Antonio and Austin.

Internally, the committee has completed 31 listening sessions with faculty by unit, faculty of color and Faculty Senate; 12 staff listening sessions by unit, staff of color and staff council; and six listening sessions with department chairs, center directors and program directors.

Dixon and Brewton both stressed the community’s desire for a leader who will further Baylor’s Christian mission and principles.

“The faculty are looking for someone who has an understanding of how to bring Baylor’s Christian mission to life in a way that is meaningful and fresh as we move forward,” Dixon said. “They are looking for someone who can inspire the faculty in our Christian mission, someone who also can speak to what it means to take Baylor to the next level in terms of being a high-level research institution that still prizes and supports its strong focus on high-quality teaching. That’s going to require a different leader – someone who has a real understanding of how the academic mission comes to life in an institution and how to engage faculty.”

The committee has also completed 25 interviews with deans and associate deans and 12 interviews with senior leaders.

“The biggest item that we really learned and had magnified for us is that all of our constituents want us to have an unapologetic Christian leader,” Brewton said. “Throughout the last number of months and all of the debacle that Baylor has gone through, they want a strong Christian leader who can address issues that may come up with the university in a strong Christian manner. Someone that won’t back down from the press or whomever the focus group may be that happens to be attacking the university.”

The email said the committee has “solicited input from more than 85 student leaders representing a wide range of student groups and organizations. The search committee plans to solicit input from more than 50 additional student leaders and hold listening sessions open to all undergraduate and graduate students.”

Nashville, Tenn., senior Jonathan Siktberg, a presidential search committee member and a former student regent, has been conducting the student focus groups with Student Body President Lindsey Bacque.

“The overarching theme from students is finding someone with a strong Christian commitment who is dedicated to helping Baylor achieve its mission,” Siktberg said. “They’ve shared issues that are important to them, including interpersonal violence, diversity, affordability and academics. Central to it is finding someone that is a good fit for our university, for our mission and our Christian commitment.”

The committee will accept additional input through their website through Nov. 18.