Chasing a Chancellor

Staff Writer Holly S. Trowbridge
Photographs Provided By Karlee Oyama

University of Hawaii at hilo entrace sign

The Chancellor Search Advisory Committee has been hard at work since the beginning of January, on the hunt for a good candidate to serve the university’s community. The search committee was organized after former Chancellor Donald Straney moved up to the UH System Vice President position. President David Lassner put together the committee with the idea of having new blood, and new connections in mind. As with any job search, they have a long and windy road ahead of them.

The Chancellor Search Advisory Committee’s role in the hunt is not only prominent, but unique as well. “Most search committees are kept confidential, in that when they run searches on the campus, the search committees are not known to the applicants, or to anyone else in the institution, except to the applicants who are selected for interview. But in this case, because it is an executive search, for open and transparent purposes starting from the integrity of the search being representative of the different estate holders, having a say in the process, we have made public the list of the seventeen members on the committee.” says Vice Chancellor and Co-Chair of the Search committee, Farrah-Marie Gomes.

“The seventeen member search advisory committee includes representation from UH Hilo faculty, students, staff, the Hanakahi Native Hawaiian council and community leaders,”states the official website for the search.

The website also states that, “the committee will conduct confidential video interviews of the most promising candidates, and the committee plans to host on-campus visits by the finalists in late April to ensure that students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders are able to meet the finalists and provide input.” This would mean that part of the decision-making process could include interactions between applicants and the constituents of both the university and the Hilo community.

Gomes states, “Originally there were sixteen members, there was some concern from the community about not having enough community representation among the committee, and the president appointed one additional member.”

The push for more representation proves just how big of an impact a chancellor can make in the Hilo area. “The main role of the committee is to vet applicants through a process, looking at minimum qualifications, matching them up to what we stated were the expected minimum and desirable requirements for the applicant, and reviewing the applications,” Gomes continues.

The committee’s timeline goal is to have a new chancellor appointed by the second week of May, and to be officially working by the Fall 2018 semester. Some of the minimum requirements include a doctorate degree, an academic rank of full professor or comparable professional experience prior, experience in higher education academic and financial administration, experience in dean’s level or comparable work, demonstrated record of successful leadership in teaching, and more.

Though the search began with a rough start, with conflicting schedules of the seventeen-member machine, currently the committee is in the process of thoroughly reviewing applicants, and seeing how well they match up to the expected and ideal candidate requirements. Campus visits are to be conducted in the coming months as well.

While the list of minimum requirements is crucial to the applicants, so are the desirable qualifications. A chancellor needs to portray active and passive community improvement.

“What’s a good chancellor? These duties really mean you have to do everything, and we’re looking for somebody who can engage the campus community, faculty, students, staff, and engage the community at large, and really merge these two groups,” says Kalei Rapoza, Interim Vice Chancellor of Administrative Affairs, and member of the Search Committee.

In addition, “It would be very helpful to have someone who has experience in leading research, though UH Hilo isn’t what we call an R-1 research institution, but we do have the pharmacy college, a pharmaceutical science and a TCPS master’s program, and many faculty who are engaged in their own research,” Rapoza says.

Having a chancellor with this capability would be helpful for connecting to the variety of people found on the campus, as well as for leadership skills.

Rapoza continues, “We talk about how big an impact UH Hilo has in this city, town, and island, and we really want this new chancellor to elevate that relationship, to build closer ties between our campus and the community around us, to really integrate UH Hilo into the larger community.”

Another role of the chancellor is to “ensure that day-to-day operations, administration and management are executed efficiently,” states the official chancellor search website.

Overall it seems the university is looking for a well-rounded, capable, and unifying candidate to take over this very important role. Ultimately of course, President Lassner has the final decision on which applicant should be named.

The next chancellor will have big shoes to fill, and will be expected to travel to Oahu for meetings and events, as well as to meet with important constituents of the university system.

As Lassner says, “The next chancellor will have a wonderful opportunity to collegially and collaboratively lead the campus and community in focusing to make UH Hilo a cornerstone of the Hawaiʻi Island economy and community as well as a valued and unique element of an integrated University of Hawaiʻi system that serves the entire state.” This new chancellor will be Hilo-based, and will serve the community at large.