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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Search for Knox’s next president underway

Search+for+Knox%E2%80%99s+next+president+underway

President Teresa Amott,  who will be retiring in 2021, speaks outside of SMC. (Katy Coseglia ‘21 / TKS)

President Teresa Amott, who will be retiring in 2021, speaks outside of SMC. (Katy Coseglia ‘21 / TKS)

The search process for President Teresa Amott’s successor began in the spring immediately following the announcement of her upcoming departure from Knox and is now at the stage of forming a pool of candidates, according to Chair of the Presidential Search Committee Tony Etz ‘83

Etz, who also serves as Chair of Campus Life & Athletics on Knox’s Board of Trustees, was tasked by his fellow trustees in the spring with leading the search process. After forming a search committee, he held a listening tour last May in which he talked to staff, students, faculty and Galesburg community members on what they would want to see in Knox’s next President. 

“People who go to Knox, who work at Knox, who graduated from Knox, have a sense that we have a very unique culture,” Etz said. “The first thing you hear is they want a president who recognizes that culture and will nurture that culture”

Besides this, what Etz took away from the feedback was that people are interested in seeing the next president be a bold “change agent” for the school and who will be a visible part of the Knox community.

“You just need someone who you feel like we’re all in it together, we’ll all buy in together, we’ll all go in the same direction. We need that level of leadership,” Etz said. 

The committee formed to conduct the search for this next leader is intended to represent various constituents and perspectives of Knox’s extended community. The committee includes trustees, senior and junior faculty from four disciplines, Knox staff members, and students. It is gender balanced, and Etz states there is representation for people of color and different seuxal orientations.

“We are a diverse community, a very diverse community, and I think it is incumbent upon us to have the same type of inclusion when it comes to voices on the committee,” Etz said.

However, while Etz emphasized his interest in a range of voices in the search process, he acknowledged that the hiring decision will ultimately come down to the judgement of the Board of Trustees — who make up half the spots on the search committee. 

The search committee selected an outside advisor, Search Consultant Chuck O’Boyle, to work with them on the hiring process. O’Boyle’s role includes reaching out to candidates and collecting recommendations for candidates, which he brings to the committee for their review.

O’Boyle has created and placed ads for the position in academic journals such as The Chronicle of Higher Education and creates a prospectus for the position. 

The prospectus, publicly available on Knox’s presidential search page, lists among the expectations for the next Knox president that they will work with faculty on revising the Knox curriculum, get new fundraising sources for the school, attempt to “eliminate Knox’s structural deficit over a five-year horizon” and “reduce Knox’s tuition discount to sustainable levels more in line with peer institutions.”

In describing the “ideal candidate” for the presidency, the prospectus states that they, among other qualities, “will be an educator at heart who relishes working with teachers,” “possess sophistication in budgeting and financial modeling” and that they will have “a record of support and advocacy for individuals from diverse identities, histories, backgrounds and experiences.” 

Etz says the committee has already identified multiple applicants considered to be excellent candidates, but noted that it is currently a competitive hiring environment due to factors like COVID-19 leading to new openings among college presidencies. 

According to Etz, this sense of competitiveness contributed to one change in the hiring process from when Amott joined Knox in 2011. While the process has always been mostly confidential, the names of finalists for the position were revealed during the last presidential search. This time, the candidates’ name will remain private for the entire process.

While Etz says this change did entail a long discussion from the committee due to their interest in having outside voices weigh in, the decision ultimately came down to the advice from all the search consultants Knox had spoken to — who unanimously indicated that an open process would hurt the school’s ability to attract the highest level of candidates.

Etz’s hope is this will not end up being a significant change in the process — as while the names of the finalists will not be public, the committee still intends to bring finalists to campus where they will meet with what’s planned to be a “representative” group of Knox students, faculty, and staff.

The committee’s exact timeline for selection of the next president is also confidential, but Etz is certain they will be in place by Amott’s departure at the end of the school year. Ideally, Etz would like there to be time for a transition period for the new President to get to know the community — before they fully take over and launch a new era at Knox. 

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