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USF’s Presidential Search Committee prioritizes community engagement as it looks for the next leader

The USF presidential search committee sits at a roundtable in in the Patel Center at the USF Tampa campus to discuss what traits they think the next USF president should have.
Jorgelina Manna-Rea
USF's presidential search committee met Oct. 22 to discuss what traits the next USF president should have.

The USF Presidential Search Committee is expected to have candidates selected for the position by early next year.

A 15 person search committee has been working to find the University of South Florida’s next president since almost immediately after Steven Currall stepped down in August.

But right now “who” isn’t the pressing question regarding the future leader — it’s what qualities they need to have.

Committee Chair and USF Board of Trustees Vice Chair Mike Griffin spoke with WUSF about what they’re hearing the community wants those qualities to be and how they’re moving forward.

Mike Griffin: We have no candidates to date, we won't have any candidates until after we actually post the job description. I will say, though, that we have a lot of interest from prospects, some individuals that have advocates that are advocating for them, or hearing directly from some prospects.

Jorgelina Manna-Rea: And what are some things that the committee's prioritizing during the search?

Mike Griffin: Great question. So we are prioritizing a lot of community engagement. Obviously, right now, we feel like, and I feel like, as chair, that it's really, really important that the community is involved and has a vested interest in this selection.

Jorgelina Manna-Rea: How are you gauging what the USF community faculty, staff and students want to see in the next president?

Mike Griffin: We have, certainly from the surveys, and from the town halls, and from the listening sessions — but we're also — I get a lot of feedback on social media. I'm very active on Twitter, in particular, I hear a lot of individuals, you know, I get tagged on posts or you know, tweets and so forth around this or that. And I know I somewhat joked about it, but truly, I mean, when I'm at Publix, I've had people approach me while I'm grocery shopping around what they want to see in the next president and I make a note of everything. I share it with our search consultant, and all of that is really going to drive what kind of leader and what kind of president we're going to have.

Jorgelina Manna-Rea: What are some issues that stakeholders want the next president to tackle?

Mike Griffin: Additional resources in the budget, consolidation, and really embracing the unique identities of our three campuses.

Jorgelina Manna-Rea: And what about faculty, staff and students. What do they want to see the next president address?

Mike Griffin: So the faculty, staff and students, there's quite a bit of alignment of what those constituencies are looking for, I think it's a lot around again, having a leader that is excited to be here, having a leader that bleeds the green and gold and is walking around campus, and if you're wearing that (University of Florida) shirt, put on the USF shirt, you know? That real passion for being here, someone that's going to advocate for them and listen is critically important. Certainly, I think finding someone that understands their first job is student success and supporting students, which means supporting our faculty and our staff, is certainly something that those three groups are looking for.

Jorgelina Manna-Rea: What's next in this process? And when do you think a final decision will be made?

Mike Griffin: So we are going to continue refining the position profile. Our hope is that the Board of Trustees at their December meeting will approve that or discuss that. But I would say, sometime (in the) first quarter of next year, we'll have candidates on our campuses and moving that process forward. But we're going to continue working this until we feel comfortable that we have multiple credible, qualified candidates for the presidency.

And we can do that because we have a great interim president in President (Rhea) Law. And so she's getting a lot done, which is great. And that gives our search process a lot of breathing room if you will to make sure that we're not rushing it and that we make the right decision because I am confident that our next president will be the best president we've ever had at the University of South Florida. That's our standard. That's my expectation. And we're going to take all the time we need to go find whoever that individual is.

USF owns the broadcast license for WUSF Public Media.

Jorgelina Manna-Rea is a WUSF Rush Family/USF Zimmerman School Digital News intern for the fall of 2021, her second straight semester with WUSF.
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