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Announcement to NCHC Membership about Executive Director Transition

Cindy Hill will be stepping down as Executive Director (ED) of NCHC.  She and her husband, Marshall, are relocating to Boulder, Colorado, to pursue new and exciting professional opportunities. Cindy has done an extraordinary job as ED, thoroughly transforming the operation; she has assembled an excellent team that performs in a professional, responsive manner. We are going to miss her terribly.

I quote Cindy’s letter of resignation:  “It has been my great pleasure to serve as your Executive Director for the past 5½ years. Without a doubt my greatest professional experience has been working for all the fantastic members of NCHC. We’ve come a long way in that time, and I’m very proud of the accomplishments of our tremendous staff, Carolee, Trish, Betty, Teri and Kristi…The thought of leaving this position is bittersweet and I'm sad to be leaving so many wonderful colleagues. The future of NCHC will be exciting, and I will always regard my time spent in this organization as one of the most fulfilling of my life.”

After announcing her resignation to the Board of Directors, board member, John Zubizarreta, wrote the following that I think beautifully sums up how we all feel:  “Cindy has been at the center of the organization's transformation into a still-growing powerhouse in the landscape of higher education in this country and abroad.  I was part of the search committee that eagerly endorsed her hire and celebrated when she agreed to serve as our ED.  She far exceeded our expectations as an expert, savvy, and efficient manager and motivating leader, but she has been much more than that: she has also been a considerate, humble, and generous colleague and friend among her office staff and among all of us.  She has built an effective, committed team in the national headquarters, and our operations have steadily improved thanks to her inspiring, creative leadership.  As one who worked closely with Cindy in staging our national conference in D.C., I can attest to her good influence and wise counsel in our shared governance of NCHC.  More poignantly, I will miss her as a warm, kind friend.”

Cindy has agreed to serve through the end of the year, and that gives us a window to search for a replacement.  She has also agreed to manage from a distance, even after the first of the year, if we do not yet have her replacement in the office.  My goal is to have the new ED in place no later than the 2014 Winter Meeting, and sooner is better.

We have formed a search committee.  Judging from Article 9, Section 2, of the Constitution and Bylaws, the Board of Directors hires the ED.  Section 5 implies and precedent from the prior search supports having the Executive Committee serve as the search committee. The Executive Committee consists of the Immediate Past President (Greg Lanier), President (me, serving as search committee chair), President Elect (Jim Ruebel), Vice President (Barry Falk), Treasurer (Gary Bell) and Secretary (Kyoko Amano).  We added three members of the Board of Directors to broaden the range of voices in the group, namely, Laurie Smith Law, Zach Samples and Soncerey Montgomery.

We begin the search with this announcement, calling for nominations and applications from the NCHC membership (click this link to see the position description).  Formal application review starts on September 30 and continues until the position is filled.  If no suitable internal candidate emerges, we will broaden the search, most likely utilizing a search firm.

Let me provide some context for the position's qualifications. We debated where to set the required education level, and we decided to raise it, since the search committee hopes to find strong candidates within the membership as the first step in the search.  Experience has shown that it is vital for the Executive Director to establish standing in situations of conflict or contention, and that turns out to be difficult without either an advanced degree or specific higher education experience to which to appeal.  The ED’s authority in those instances can be and has been questioned.  Consequently, we are requiring a master’s degree and making a doctorate preferred, and we are looking for experience in higher education with a preference in honors education.  If candidates come forth from the membership, meeting those criteria will not be difficult.

By the end of September we will know whether this first step is fruitful.  While the search committee hopes that this step will produce a great hire, we are aware that if it does not we would need to take a second step and broaden the search. In that case we would be wise to lower the required educational background to a baccalaureate degree in casting a wider net.

What could we expect by starting the search among our membership?  I would like to see applications come from current or former honors directors or faculty that have managerial and budgetary oversight experience, and who have been involved with non-profits either in charitable work or in professional associations.  Think of academics who have served on boards of directors or as elected executives of professional organizations in their fields.

As we began thinking about a replacement, Cindy and I talked about what is needed, going forward, compared to what was needed when she was hired.  Back then the most important need was to build an infrastructure—hire a competent staff, come up with a transparent budgetary protocol that was based on best practices of board-run non-profits and keep the "trains running on time" with respect to membership growth and delivering publications and the annual conference.  Cindy has built a high-functioning team in the National Headquarters Office that manages these services with efficiency and grace.  Going forward we will likely need to add other services, including data reports and increased professional development that trains new directors but also deepens backgrounds for longer-serving directors in areas such as assessment and program evaluation, curriculum development and best practices in teaching and learning.  To me, a great hire would mean bringing in an Executive Director that can manage the staff Cindy has assembled but also understands how to deliver these additional services.

Provided that we obtain a sufficient pool of qualified applicants in this step, I would like to have the committee construct a short list (no more than five candidates).  We can interview each by phone using our conference call capacity and then rank-order the finalists. We will bring the top two (or three) to the conference in New Orleans.  They should find attendance useful, and the search committee could conduct face-to-face interviews.  The search committee would then make a recommendation to the Board of Directors; the board will make the final decision.  Should this play out as described, we would be in a position to make an offer in November for a possible starting date at the turn of the new year.

~Rick Scott, President

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