FSP Senior VP Ivan Bartolome Discusses Executive Search Trends Among Faith-based Academic Institutions
As the academic landscape across the country continues to grow more and more competitive, it is imperative for faith-based institutions to secure exceptional leadership. The old model of simply hiring from within is no longer an adequate strategy for replacing high-profile university officials. In addition to educational experience, today’s leaders of faith-based colleges and universities must also possess tact, diplomacy, an understanding of the fiscal needs and resources of educational entities, a commitment to putting students first, a dedication to the institution’s mission of ministry and much more. Increasingly, religious academic institutions are recognizing the importance of selecting these types of distinguished leaders and are turning to executive search firms to find them.
Senior Vice President of FaithSearch Partners Ivan Bartolome is leading the development of the firm’s Academic Division. He discusses the growing need for more sophisticated search methods within faith-based colleges and universities in a brief Q & A session below.
What are some current trends you’re seeing in the faith-based academic world that creates a need for these institutions to rely on an executive search firm to fill key leadership positions?
I have observed two scenarios in academic settings that prompt faith-based institutions to call on an executive search firm. First, the university leadership feels they know nearly everyone who will be interested in a particular position. They have concluded that they need to broaden their perspective and go beyond their normal pool of faculty and academic leaders to find someone with a particular skill and leadership style. This leader will help them with specific issues in the short term and a specific strategy for the long term. Second, the university leadership understands that the number of people in academic leadership who are available for a particular position is very narrow. They know their Human Resources team will need some assistance and additional “bandwidth” to find qualified candidates who are willing to relocate from such a small pool of potential leaders.
What types of positions are executive search firms commonly retained to fill in the faith-based academic sector?
In general, it is reasonable and expected for the university or college to promote from within for most low- to mid-level positions. However, existing faculty members are rarely the right choice to fill prominent senior leadership positions. The Board of Trustees or the academic leadership will typically seek the help of a search firm like FaithSearch Partners for President- or Provost-level searches.
Many of our consultants have served as an administrator in an academic setting or held a position on a college board or committee. We have access to a nationwide database of top-tier candidates as well as the knowledge and resources to overcome the unique challenges a higher education search may present. We have successfully completed a number of key leadership searches for faith-based colleges and universities across the country by identifying and securing outside talent with the ability to complement and pollinate their current faculty with new ideas and new approaches to mentorship.
How is the FaithSearch Partners search process management approach of value in a religiously affiliated academic setting?
Our extensive search experience has helped us refine a very deliberate and often fast search process for a university or college. Whether it’s a group of faculty and staff or members of the college board, most academic entities will use a search committee to help guide the process. This means there is much more collaboration and discussion before a final candidate is pushed to the finish line. At FaithSearch Partners we do not encourage you to bypass the search committee, but we can provide you with strategies to help speed up the committee interview process so that your process is followed in a timely manner while still fulfilling the strategic objectives of the university or college leadership.
We also recognize there is no “one size fits all” method of search. Through years of combined experience, our consultants have gained a deep understanding of faith-based academic institutions and have tailored a specialized educational search process to meet their specific needs.