Search for Rob Oliver’s successor underway

Presidential search committee, plan come into focus


The search for Rob Oliver’s successor is underway and is scheduled to conclude in March of 2017.

The Augustana Presidential Search Committee had its first meeting Oct. 19. During the session, it approved a timeline for the search and the Leadership Profile, a summary of Augustana University and expectations of presidential candidates, to be released in the next few days.

The committee is composed of four professors, one administrative faculty member, one support staff, one alumnus, one student and the eight members of the Board of Trustees. Names can be found on the presidential search web page.

Becky Blue, chair of the Board of Trustees and the search committee, said that the primary consideration of the committee was ensuring representation from all realms of Augustana.

“We needed to have a manageable size of a committee that is functioning and can meet, so not every specific section has a seat at the table … We wanted people who would speak for the whole campus—not just their area of expertise.”

mason-vanessenWhile the committee stated that student input is desired and considered, only one student was named to the committee—ASA President Mason VanEssen. Blue said that the size of the committee was a concern but that others should be able to speak for students, too.

“I think a good example is Adam [Heinitz] from enrollment, who sees all kinds of students and works with all departments,” Blue said. “We still want as much community input as we can. We want to listen to different groups, different constituents.”

ASA will also be a tool to ensure that student’s voices are heard during the process.

“I plan to be in regular dialogue with students, primarily through ASA,” VanEssen said. “By keeping senators and the executive branch informed of the process, they should be able to gather input from the student body.”

Another tool ensuring students are aware and informed is the soon-to-be released presidential profile and presidential search webpage. The web page, accessible by the general public, will be updated regularly with the progress of the committee.

“Students who are interested in how the process works or where the process stands currently should check that link for updates, but most importantly, if students have questions, ask,” VanEssen said.

Diversity will also be considered during the process. While Augustana’s Lutheran affiliation requires that the university president be an active member of a Lutheran congregation, the Leadership Profile compiled specifies that candidates should be “committed to the University’s Christian heritage and its broadly inclusive, expansively hospitable environment.”

Preston, who also served on the previous presidential search committee in 2006, agreed with Blue and said “We would seek a candidate who is open to the many voices on this campus while at the same time maintaining the core mission, which is Lutheran.”

An equal concern is ensuring that the incoming president will continue to support international programs. Blue said that the next president must “understand the importance of not only having international experiences for our domestic students, but also the presence of international students on our campus.”

The Horizons 2019 strategic plan called for an increase in minority representation on campus with a goal of 20% of students being either domestic or international students of color, along with a plan to continue expanding the number of international programs available.

Other considerations are the communal aspect of Augustana, especially the accessibility and presence that current president Rob Oliver has displayed.

“We really want to look for someone who has that great servant heart and community spirit that Rob has,” Blue said. “We really want them to be present at activities and greeting students.”

“Rob Oliver was a member of the faculty, but certainly we would expect a new candidate to immerse him or herself in the community, to be a visual presence to the students, as without that you can’t build a relationship between the president and the college,” Preston said. “We want someone who is going to dynamically interact with Augustana.”

VanEssen said connecting with students was, in his mind, the most important duty of the new president.

“There are many very important aspects of the job of president at this university outlined in the Leadership Profile, but none more important than making sure decisions are made with the heart of Augustana in mind, the students,” he said.

The Leadership Profile identifies “Play a Visible and Productive Role in the Community” as one objective the incoming president will be judged on, along with goals outlined in the strategic plan for the university.

Unlike the previous presidential search, this search will be a closed search. As such, while the community will be updated on the progress of the search, no names in consideration will be released.

“The process is transparent, but the candidates are confidential,” Blue said.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: