Search firm identifies pool of candidates, nominees for WCU’s next chancellor

The firm that is guiding the search for Western Carolina University’s next chancellor has identified a pool of approximately three dozen possible candidates for the position who  already have indicated strong interest in serving as the institution’s new chief executive officer.

That was the word Wednesday, Jan. 12, from Jerry Baker, lead consultant for the Baker and Associates executive recruitment firm, during a telephone meeting of the 16-member chancellor search committee that is helping select WCU’s next chancellor.

Baker updated committee members on the status of the search to find a successor for John W. Bardo, who announced in October his plans to step down from the chancellorship this summer after more than 15 years in the position.

“Of those who have said they are interested in your position, 22 of them are men or women who are viable, serious candidates,” Baker said. “The quality of the candidates is really just first-rate, and I am really pleased with where we are at this point in the process.”

The candidates to date come from a wide range of backgrounds, many of them currently working in top leadership roles at other public institutions, he said. “Some of them are at very large public institutions, including some of the country’s largest and best-known public institutions,” he said.

Many of the candidates are sitting chancellors, provosts or academic vice chancellors, while several are deans of large colleges or schools, he said. Four candidates are currently vice presidents or vice chancellors in student affairs, and two currently are in leadership positions outside traditional academia who have extensive involvement with higher education, Baker said.

“Geographically, the candidates literally come from coast to coast, with one candidate who is from outside of North America,” he said.

Baker also outlined the process that the search will take in the weeks ahead.

The committee met at 10 a.m. yesterday, Thursday, Jan. 27, in the Ramsey Regional Activity Center to develop a list of specific questions that it will ask of all candidates during interviews.

Biographical information about the candidates will be shared with search committee members through a confidential, password-protected website. The committee will meet again Tuesday, Feb. 15, at the offices of AdvantageWest in Asheville to discuss the top candidates and to narrow the pool to between eight and 10 candidates to be selected to participate in off-campus interviews. Discussion of individual candidates will take place during closed session, in accordance with the state’s open meetings laws, which permit public bodies to go into closed session to consider the qualifications of prospective public officers or employees.

The goal is for the committee to complete its work and recommend its top choices to the WCU Board of Trustees so that the board can forward the names of at least three nominees to

Tom Ross, president of the University of North Carolina system. Ross then will present his recommendation to the full UNC Board of Governors for final consideration and approval.

Steve Warren, chair of the WCU Board of Trustees and chair of the search committee, said it is the goal to have a new chancellor named and ready to lead the university by July 1.

For more information, visit the search committee website at