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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Funk is ‘bullish’ on attracting top candidates for UNC’s next chancellor

Bill Funk believes the search for the next University chancellor presents a blend of challenges and opportunities.

Funk, who heads the Dallas-based R. William Funk and Associates – the firm hired by the Chancellor Search Committee to recruit qualified potential candidates – briefed the University’s Board of Trustees at its Nov. 15 meeting.

One challenge is the competitive environment for talented candidates because of the number of current searches for chancellors and university presidents. Searches for new leaders are under way at universities including Carnegie Mellon, Princeton, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Funk said it seems that there are never enough excellent candidates to fill the positions, no matter how good the institution is. A major factor is the aging candidate pool, with 60 percent of all sitting university presidents age 61 or older, he said. The Chronicle of Higher Education has dubbed this “the graying of the presidency.”

Compounding this, only about 30 percent of provosts nationwide aspire to take on the difficult job of university head, he said.

Even with such challenges, Funk said Carolina’s search provided many opportunities. He outlined them in response to a question from Trustee Barbara Hyde about the factors in Carolina’s favor over its competitors.

The biggest advantage, Funk said, is simply being Carolina.

“Nationally, UNC-Chapel Hill continues to have a very pristine image.” He added, “The reputation of UNC-Chapel Hill is so strong, that in itself will attract a great number of individuals.”

Funk said there also was recognition across the country that findings from the NCAA’s joint investigation with the University of the football program and the extensive efforts to address academic irregularities found in the African and Afro-American studies department had been addressed in a positive, effective manner. He said the higher education community was aware that similar problems could occur on other campuses.

Another positive factor for the University is the widespread recognition that the North Carolina General Assembly supports higher education at a level matched by few other states – even with the budget cuts in recent years. “On a relative basis,” Funk said, “North Carolina is as generous as almost any state I know.”

He told trustees his firm was casting a wide net to ensure that the search committee and the trustees would be able to recommend three finalists to UNC President Tom Ross from a multi-talented and diverse pool of candidates. Ross, in turn, will choose one person to recommend to the UNC Board of Governors for final approval before Chancellor Holden Thorp steps down next summer.

“We have an excellent story to tell,” Funk said. “I am very bullish on what we will be able to do to attract candidates.”