UNC chancellor search is officially underway. Here’s when a new leader could be named

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The 13th chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill could be named by the end of the calendar year.

The committee tasked with finding the university’s next leader met for the first time Thursday, with UNC System President Peter Hans delivering instructions to the group. Hans said the committee will work toward a goal of naming the new chancellor by the end of 2024.

“While it is far more important to get the right person than adhere strictly to a timetable, I’m confident we can work thoughtfully and efficiently toward the goal of my recommending a nominee to the UNC Board of Governors before the year’s end,” Hans told the committee.

Thursday’s meeting kicked off the months-long search that will include in-person and virtual opportunities for students, faculty, staff, alumni and other community members to provide input on the qualities they would like to see in the university’s next leader.

And that process started even earlier than originally planned to avoid conflict with March Madness. The search committee’s meeting was originally scheduled for 3 p.m., but was moved up to 1 p.m., which committee chair Cristy Page acknowledged was done to accommodate the 2:45 p.m. tipoff of UNC’s game against Wagner in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Search firm, student input

Students will be allowed to give input before the end of the academic year in May, and additional opportunities will be offered in the fall semester.

The university is also accepting proposals from national search firms to assist the committee in its work. Page, who is the executive dean of the UNC School of Medicine and chief academic officer of UNC Health, said she hopes to have the firm selected by the first week of April.

Page noted that the committee will need to work quickly to meet Hans’ December goal, but said the group would not sacrifice the quality of the search to do so.

“We want to find the absolute best candidates and run a very clean and appropriate process,” she said.

Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts is currently leading the university following the January departure of Kevin Guskiewicz, who held the chancellorship for five years. Guskiewicz became the president of Michigan State University earlier this month.

Roberts, a former state budget director under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory who did not have higher education leadership experience prior to being named interim chancellor, has not said publicly whether he will seek the job permanently.

Search process and timeline

Using input they receive through an online survey and listening sessions, one of the search committee members’ first tasks will be to craft a leadership profile that includes ideal traits for prospective candidates.

Hans identified some of those potential traits Thursday, including dedication to the university’s mission of public service to the state, and to student success and integrity.

“Now, that’s quite a lot to ask of any one person,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s too much to ask on behalf of this vitally important institution.”

The committee, per UNC System policy, will then be tasked with recruiting and interviewing candidates for the chancellorship and proposing a list of finalists to the campus Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees, using the information provided by the search committee, will select at least three finalists to submit to Hans. Hans can then interview at least one of the finalists and choose one nominee to submit to the Board of Governors for a vote, or return the slate to the campus Board of Trustees with directions “for further action.”

The Board of Governors will vote on Hans’ nominee and the conditions negotiated for the candidate, including salary and other compensation. Hans’ nominee will not be allowed to be present at any meeting where a vote is taken on their selection as chancellor.

Chancellor searches across the UNC System are confidential, but the final vote to hire the chancellor must take place in a public meeting. Committee members signed confidentiality agreements at Thursday’s meeting.

System policy, citing state law on personnel records, states that none of the names and identities of the chancellor candidates, semi-finalists or finalists may be released to the public, even after the search is over. Search committee members and any other individual who becomes involved in the search are required to keep information about the process and candidates confidential.

The UNC System is also searching for new chancellors at three other universities: N.C. A&T State University, Winston-Salem State University and N.C. Central University. Those searches are expected to be completed by the end of the academic year.

More information about the search at UNC-Chapel Hill will be available at chancellorsearch.unc.edu. The search committee is expected to meet again on April 16.