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Presidential Search Planning Committee begins work

January 31, 2018

With valuable time on its side before work commences this fall to pick a new leader for the university, NIU’s Board of Trustees is getting ahead of the game.

Members of a board-appointed Presidential Search Planning Committee began meeting in January to research and identify best practices and trends nationwide in the hiring of university CEOs.

Given the mission “to help plan for the selection of a president who will move NIU into the next decade,” the committee also will draft a possible job description, create materials to tout the university to candidates and provide input on the “design of an inclusive and transparent selection process.”

Public notices of the planning committee’s meetings will be posted online at

NIU Trustee Dennis Barsema, who is chairing the committee at the request of BOT Chair Wheeler Coleman, intends to deliver the committee’s recommendations to the board in May.

He also expects the work will give NIU a competitive advantage. “When you’re in a presidential search, you’re in a race. You’re not the only university out there looking for a president. It’s a very competitive process,” Barsema says.

“My hope, and the hope of the Board of Trustees, is that this will give us a jump-start on all of the other universities doing a presidential search this fall,” he adds. “Our hope is that it will give us an opportunity to get to the great candidates first, and maybe cause them not to even look at the other universities and to put NIU at the top of their lists.”

Furthermore, he says, the committee supports NIU’s mission of shared governance.

Barsema is certain that the planning “will save us several months of work and give us a head start on getting to the best candidates,” a belief rooted in what he observed as a participant in the last presidential search.

“Once the search firm was hired through the procurement process, it took a long time before they actually started talking to candidates because the first few months of the process was spent developing the ‘NIU Points of Pride’ marketing collateral,” Barsema says.

“It was spent developing the job description. It was spent deciding how the search was going to be run, what the best practices were going to be,” he adds.

“Spin the clock forward to 2017. The Board of Trustees made the decision to delay the search because of our confidence in President Freeman, in wanting to give her and her team time to implement their ideas, which I still feel was the right decision.”

Upcoming tasks include examinations of State of Illinois guidelines on hiring, current presidential contracts and salaries at similarly sized and budgeted public universities and delineating NIU’s points of pride.

Planning Committee members also will consult the NIU Constitution and Bylaws for guidance on the makeup of the search committee. (Service on the Presidential Search Planning Committee neither mandates nor precludes its members from serving on this fall’s search committee.)

Members of the Presidential Search Planning Committee:

  • Dennis Barsema, Board of Trustees (chair)
  • Fred Barnhart, Council of Deans
  • Pete Garrity, Alumni Association board member
  • Montel Gayles, NIU Foundation board member
  • Katy Jaekel, faculty member
  • Kevin Luginbill, graduate student
  • Debra Miller, Supportive Professional Staff Council member
  • Linda Saborio, Executive Secretary of the University Council
  • George Slotsve, faculty member
  • Kendall Thu, faculty member
  • Mary Wyzard, Operating Staff Council member
  • Undergraduate student (seat currently open)
  • Instructor (seat currently open)

NIU expects to have new president in place by July 1, 2019. Freeman stepped in the acting role July 1, 2017.