Bloustein School's role in Rutgers' future: Stamato, Van Horn discuss experiences on Presidential Search Committee
Dr. Robert L. Barchi was named the
20th President of Rutgers University
on April 11, 2012. He will begin serving
on September 1.
With the conclusion of the search for Rutgers University’s 20th president, we recently sat down with Linda Stamato, a faculty fellow and co-director of the Bloustein School’s Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, to talk about her experience as vice-chair of the Presidential Search Committee.
Linda Stamato is no stranger to taking on a leadership role. As a mediator and facilitator, she has participated in a number of cases involving large-scale public policy issues as well as disputes concerning a few parties at high management levels in several institutions. She has a history of distinguished service to Rutgers and the university community, including serving as acting dean of Douglass College from 2001 to 2002 and membership on the Board of Trustees and Board of Governors – where she served as chair from 1981 to 1984. She served on the University’s Presidential Search Committee in 2002 as well as the Douglass College Dean Search Committee in 2001-02. Stamato holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Rutgers.
She was a member of the University Board of Governors from 1977-1984 and served as chair from 1981-1984 during school namesake Edward J. Bloustein’s presidential term (1971-1989). She was also a member of the University Board of Trustees from 1972 1984.
“I know that Ralph Izzo [chair of the University Board of Governors] worked hard to choose a broad-based search committee that would represent Rutgers’ diversity,” said Stamato. “I know there was some initial concern that a committee of 24 individuals was too large, but in the end—and I think this is a tribute to the committee and how well we functioned with one another—it was not a burdensome size at all. In fact, the committee members worked exceptionally well together.”
In addition to Stamato the Bloustein School was well represented on the search committee. Carl Van Horn, professor and director of the school’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, was one of eight faculty members selected to be on the committee Van Horn is a widely recognized expert on workforce, human resources, and employment policy and has held senior-level policymaking positions, including director of policy for the State of New Jersey and senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.
The end goal of the search committee was to present between three and five candidates to the Board of Governors for the final selection process in the spring. The committee presented four candidates to the board in March.
Press release naming Dr. Robert L. Barchi as 20th President of Rutgers University
Based on the current climate in higher education, Stamato noted that the committee felt that its job was to reach out to people who might be reluctant to put themselves forward for the position. “It’s not about advertising the job description that counts the most. It’s about the committee turning to the people in our university community—those who come out to say we need ‘X’ or we need ‘Y’ in this president and telling those people ‘Don’t just tell me what that person needs to be. Show me who that person is.’
“Presidential searches now are recruitment opportunities; people don’t necessarily respond to ads, especially for a position of this caliber,” she said. The process, she explained, involves a lot of dancing—getting names, sending letters, getting responses, judging the level of interest, sending more letters, making calls, generating interest, encouraging candidates to enter the search.
And the entire process operated under a high standard of confidentiality. “It’s particularly difficult if you are approaching the sitting head of an institution, such as a president or a provost. He or she can stay interested, but not committed. The search committee realized that it wasn’t just vetting the names that were coming in but also actively reaching out and trying to develop that interest. And I think that worked remarkably well because we were hoping for a wide range of candidates, and we really did succeed in getting that result.”
In the fall a number of public forums were held on campus to give the university community the opportunity not just to make suggestions as to who the next president should be or what qualities he or she should embody; it was also an opportunity for people to open up to the committee and let them know what was on their minds about the quality of life at Rutgers and to express their hopes, ambitions, and concerns regarding the direction of the university.
“A search committee’s work is most effective when it has the support of the community. And I think this committee knew right from the start that this was going to be work and knew how serious its role was,” Stamato continued. “There was terrific participation. This group of people really put this search front and center in their obligations, and it has been a valuable and immensely satisfying experience, for me, to work with this group of people.
“We wanted the community to be vested in the search process—to have the community believe that we, the members of the search committee, were going to do our best to find the leader that everyone hoped to have.” She laughed as she continued. “If you captured everything that people said they wanted, the new president would walk on water. But we knew what everyone’s expectations were, and we tried to keep those in mind.”
Watch Dr. Barchi's welcome address to the Board of Governors
The next president was being selected not just for Rutgers, she said, but for the entire state. “Everyone recognizes that our president is an extremely important player in the state’s political realm. Rutgers, like so many public institutions, is so much more tied into the operations of the state in which it operates than some of our exceptional private institutions—the students, the faculty, the research staff, the research dollars. A private institution is not what Rutgers is, given, particularly, the amount of human capital that is involved.”
She explained that the committee pulled together many of the university’s resources to develop a packet that would highlight Rutgers’ diversity, and present both the strengths and promises—and challenges—to every potential candidate. “The university’s president is essentially a moving target, especially dealing with the climate that our state is in right now. I think we all had the sense that we were going about our business in a very difficult environment. A number of things would make Rutgers very attractive to a particular candidate. To another candidate those same things might prove to have just the opposite effect.
“Rutgers is not facing challenges that are very different from those facing other institutions; all of higher education has challenges, public higher education in particular.” Again, she laughed before continuing. “Well, this state may be a little extreme.”
At the conclusion of Wednesday’s Board of Governors announcement, Dr. Van Horn commended the final choice. “The members of the presidential search committee enthusiastically recommended a very highly qualified group of candidates to the Board of Governors. In selecting Dr. Robert Barchi from that group, the Board made an outstanding selection,” he said. “He brings a wealth of experience as an academic leader at two excellent education institutions—Thomas Jefferson Medical School and the University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, he is a distinguished scientist and scholar with a broad appreciation for all of the diverse components of a complex research university.”
Stamato also recognized the accomplishments of Dr. Barchi’s wife, who will receive a faculty appointment at Rutgers. “Francis Harper Barchi is an impressive, talented partner with interests in policy and planning. She is a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics, where she is responsible for the development and implementation of training programs in clinical and research ethics and for expanding the role that bioethics can play in the national research agendas of the developing world. Her personal research focuses on the social and behavioral factors that influence women’s health in southern Africa."
The keys to the entire process, Stamato noted, were an effective committee whose members got along well together, who brought all kinds of talent and different perspectives; heavy recruitment and vetting; and of course, compelling candidates. “There was a LOT of interest in this search. It brought us to a very good place. And I think I speak for the committee as a whole when I say that any of the final candidates that we presented to the Board of Governors would be exceptional choices to lead Rutgers. Dr. Barchi is a wonderful choice and I look forward to working with him for many years.”