Mount Holyoke College’s 2018 Presidential Selection Process


What is the process to select the next president?

The Board of Trustees has developed a process in two phases.

In Phase I, the College community — faculty, students, staff and alumnae — will be asked to contribute to the finalization of a “Role Specification” document. Members of the Board will be on campus February 8 – 9, 2018, to gather input from a broad range of constituents to draft this document. They will also create an online questionnaire seeking similar input from those not in attendance.

During Phase II, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., will visit campus as an independent consultant on March 7 – 9, 2018, to engage a wide range of constituents on the acting president’s competencies in relation to the Role Specification. Those not in attendance at campus sessions will be invited to share their insights through an online questionnaire. Dr. Tatum will share her findings in a confidential report to the Board, which will then report back to the community on the candidacy of the acting president and whether or not it will move to a national search.


Why is the Board initiating this process now?

Presidential selection processes take time. They require broad consultation and careful review. Beginning the process now allows the Board to consider a strong internal candidate in advance of any decision on whether or not to conduct a national search.

Why not just conduct a national search now?

In the past several presidential search processes, Mount Holyoke has conducted a national search, using a search firm and a search committee made up of members of the College community to recruit and select candidates for the position. In those cases, the College needed to institute such a search because the incumbent president was stepping down. The present situation is different in that a strong incumbent is currently serving in the position.

Studying the experiences of peer institutions that undertook a national search with a strong incumbent leader in the role, the Board has found that this approach distorts the recruitment process, leading to a weaker overall pool of candidates and unavoidably raising the risk of losing the incumbent by placing them in the market. It has decided that Mount Holyoke needs a different and phased process, one that protects its recent progress and the long-term interests of the College.

Who decides about presidential appointments?

As is the case in every presidential appointment, the Board of Trustees has responsibility for the selection of the president, with advice and input from College constituencies.


How can I participate and provide input?

Online forms will be available to community members in both Phase I (to provide feedback on the Role Specification) and Phase II (to provide feedback about the acting president’s leadership in the context of the Role Specification). Links to those forms will be distributed via email and made available here, when ready.

What is a “Role Specification?” Can I see a copy?

As in previous presidential searches at Mount Holyoke, a Role Specification describes the president’s role, as well as the critical leadership issues and opportunities facing the College, and details the expected competencies a successful candidate will demonstrate. The Role Specification ensures a common understanding of the competencies necessary to lead Mount Holyoke College successfully. The process to develop this document is being led by vice-chair of the board, Karena Strella ’90, a partner in Egon Zehnder International, an executive search firm. The process will include in-person and online input from the College community. The Role Specification will be made available when it is finalized.

About Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.

How was Dr. Tatum chosen?

In choosing Dr. Tatum, the Board of Trustees consulted with a number of higher education professionals, including past Mount Holyoke College presidents, former educational foundation leaders and higher education experts. From their suggestions, it developed an extensive list of candidates. Dr. Tatum was the Board’s unanimous choice.

What are Dr. Tatum’s qualifications?

For many in the College community, Dr. Tatum is a trusted former Mount Holyoke colleague. Prior to her 13-year term as president of Spelman College, Dr. Tatum was a tenured faculty member, dean and acting president of Mount Holyoke. She currently serves as vice-chair of the board of trustees at Smith College. Dr. Tatum brings all the necessary experience and qualifications to this role of consultant, and has indicated that she is not interested in returning to a college presidency at this point in her career.


What is Dr. Tatum being asked to do?

Dr. Tatum will give the Board of Trustees a detailed, confidential report of her assessment of the acting president’s demonstrated capabilities in the context of the role specification. Her report will not include any specific recommendations to the Board.

Who will Dr. Tatum speak with?

Working in consultation with a small team that includes campus members and trustees, Dr. Tatum will engage with faculty, students, staff, alumnae, trustees and other key constituents of the College. She will conduct both one-on-one and group interviews. Dr. Tatum also plans to conduct some phone interviews.

What avenues for input will be available?

In addition to phone conversations and face-to-face meetings, a short online questionnaire will be available to elicit feedback about the acting president’s leadership in the context of the Role Specification. Dr. Tatum will maintain the anonymity of all respondents in both oral and online feedback as well as the confidentiality of all documents.

Who will see Dr. Tatum’s report?

Dr. Tatum’s confidential report will be presented to the Board of Trustees later this spring. Comments of constituents will be kept confidential, although she likely will identify them by constituent group. The report will be a single element, albeit an important one, in the Board’s decision-making process.

When will the Board make a decision?

The Board will communicate via email with the College community before the end of the spring semester, at which time trustees will be on campus to answer questions.