The search for the 16th president of CSU was guided by a 31-person Presidential Search Advisory Committee representing key stakeholder groups, including tenured and non-tenure-track faculty, current students, alumni, administrative professional and state classified staff, members of the Board of Governors, agricultural industry representatives, business and community leaders, and more.
The Board of Governors enlisted Parker Executive Search to assist with the effort, drawing on the firm’s experience conducting more than 2,000 national and international senior-level searches over the past 30 years for leading organizations in a variety of industries, including higher education. Parker Executive Search recommended a confidential search, which is a common procedure for university president searches, noted Board of Governors Vice Chair Armando Valdez, who chaired the search committee.
“I want to pause and underscore this point: developing the deepest and strongest candidate pool was what drove the Board’s choice of this process,” Valdez said during the Board meeting Friday, noting the difference between this process and typical university searches, which allow for open forum interviews. “Presidential searches are different, the publicity surrounding these searches is different, and universities have gone to a confidential search model because it is absolutely the best way to guarantee a strong pool. We are not in any way an outlier on this – it’s a standard and common way to conduct a presidential search in the higher education marketplace.”
The downside of a confidential search is that it relies on constituent representatives rather than a public interview of candidates, Valdez continued, noting the subsequent need for an inclusive search committee and search process. To achieve this, the search advisory committee was intentionally large and focused on gathering feedback and insight from campus through a campus-wide survey available in English and Spanish, numerous listening sessions, and adding search committee members to represent vast campus constituencies.
The search advisory committee sought applications and nominations throughout its process and ultimately evaluated 54 candidates, interviewed 12 candidates, and brought forward three individuals for consideration by the Board of Governors, the hiring authority. The Board interviewed and thoroughly reviewed candidates before announcing Parsons as the sole finalist on Dec. 2.
“The search committee made it clear that they felt all three of the candidates they shared with the Board could be successful as the next university president,” Jordan said. “The Board interviewed and carefully reviewed these candidates. At every step of the process, there was broad and strong consensus to move Ms. Parsons forward.”
Colorado law outlines a mandatory 14-day notice and waiting period following the announcement of a finalist before the Board of Governors can enter into an employment agreement and announce an anticipated start date. During that time, the Board considered feedback from campus provided via email and through a survey that Faculty Council distributed to all faculty and staff and shared responses with the Board. The Faculty Council survey revealed mixed feedback, with concerns from faculty that Parsons does not have an academic and research background.
“It is our opinion that Ms. Parsons understands the central nature of teaching and research at a university; that she clearly demonstrates the understanding that the interactions of students and faculty are why the university exists; and that the tripartite mission of teaching, research and service must be at the forefront of all university decisions,” Jordan said. “Her self-awareness of this limitation drives what we see as a strong commitment to building an executive leadership team with the highest quality provost and executive vice president.”