The new president of UMich, the presidential search committee discusses



Following the Council of Regency approval of the elected president Santa Ono The Michigan Daily sat down with Ono as well as co-chairs of the Presidential Search Committee, Regents Sarah Hubbard (R) and Denise Ilitch (D), on Wednesday to discuss Ono’s experience, the process of presidential research and more.

This article has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Interview with the Presidential Search Committee

The Michigan Daily: When did you first identify Ono as a candidate and how long have you been considering it?

Sarah Hubbard: We worked with a search company – Isaacson, Miller – and part of what they did was help us identify this large pool of candidates. So they were going to look at all the possible candidates around the world. After the listening sessions, we crafted the job description and Ono was in one of those very first pools of 100 candidates when we started the search in March.

TDG: What did you do with the information gathered from the presidential search committee? Have committee members met Ono?

Denise Ilitch: What we did was we looked at all the candidates that Sarah talked about and then we started an interview process which we did with the presidential search committee and we narrowed down the candidates with the committee .

TDG: What were the main lessons learned from the listening sessions? What impact did this have on your decision to choose Ono?

SH: The lessons learned from the listening sessions were the main attributes we were looking for in a rector, primarily someone who can really build trust between the wider university community and all of its different stakeholders. The best takeaway was someone who was capable, who could do the job, and who understood how to run a university. We wanted to hire someone who didn’t need training wheels, and the listening sessions really helped us focus on those attributes.

ID: I would just add that he talked about being a people connector. One thing I took away from the listening sessions is that our community wants to be heard and they want to be listened to and they want to be connected, and Ono is a connector. It was really essential, not only in his style of leadership, but also in his way of communicating. We happen to have fallen in love with the way he communicates and he approaches communication in many ways.

TDG: Were there qualities that board members were looking for in a new president?

SH: Something that was really important to me was someone who had presidential experience. It was not an absolute result, we were always interested in people who had experience as provost and dean, but someone who had experience as president for me was very, very important.

ID: The presidential experience was really a dealbreaker. I wasn’t willing to risk having someone who didn’t have the experience of running an institution of our size and audience. It would have been a very unusual person to make that exception. But for me too, he was the head healer, someone who could take the situation we are in right now and restore trust in our community.

TDG: How will the board of directors help facilitate the presidential transition and what role do you both intend to play in said transition?

ID: I think it’s going to be business as usual. We will try to be as supportive as possible. We are delighted because we think Ono is a transparent person, he is a collaborator and he likes to work in partnership. He has servant-style leadership, so he has humility and he likes asking for advice and getting help and listening. We want to be a strong support system for him and that’s what we will do.

SH: I think he will also stay in touch with (Acting) President (Mary Sue) Coleman and this transition, and while he wants to respect his retirement, she also wants to make sure he gets off to a good start.

TDG: How has the presidential search process changed after former president (Mark) Schlissel was fired? Were you already considering candidates when Schlissel announced his retirement in October?

SH: Because Schlissel had already announced his retirement, we started looking for recruitment firms and preparing for this process, but it wasn’t until he left that we really moved forward with the recruitment committee. We certainly did not expect to have to act as quickly as we did. But when we needed to do it, we did it.

ID: Our timing was really good because there are about five different presidential searches going on across the country, so we’re very happy we didn’t have to compete with them. We got a little head start and we managed to find the best candidate.

TDG: What was the biggest challenge in the presidential search process?

ID: Privacy. Most people don’t understand, it’s really about the other candidates, not just the elected candidate, but also those who were interviewed to protect their privacy because they all have current jobs and everything.

Interview with President-elect Santa Ono

TDG: How is your live as president of the University of Cincinnati and the University of British Columbia, has he prepared you to lead a public research university with a Big Ten athletics program? How did your experience in Cincinnati shape your relationship with The Ohio State University?

Santa Ono: Oh, that’s a pretty funny question. It’s a national rivalry. So, I might ask you “What is the relationship between Michigan and the State of Michigan?” I would say that the University of Cincinnati shares this rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State. You’re not looking at a Buckeye fan.

As you probably know, the University of British Columbia is huge – there are around 71,000 students enrolled there. It is a very comprehensive research university, like Michigan. I would say there are a lot of transferable skills and experiences between the University of British Columbia and the University of Michigan. In terms of D1 sports, you have the Cincinnati Bearcats. I worked very hard to support the coaches and the sporting director there. We were able to really pave the way for a realignment of the conference in the Big 12. Michigan and Cincinnati were both Final Four teams in the college football playoffs. So I think I have a pretty good experience in D1 sports as well.

TDG: Over the past two years, the University has seen the firing of two of the most senior positions in the administration: former University President Mark Schlissel for an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and former Provost Martin Philbert for sexual misconduct. In light of this, how do you intend to regain the community’s trust in the administration of the University?

SO: Well, as we’re doing right now, making it a priority to speak with you from my very first day – one of the few posts I’m doing this with – which hopefully is a signal for you of the kind of relationship I want to have with the students of the University. I will therefore remain available. I hope we can have regular conversations, but also with other student leaders and student groups. And that’s the basis of trust: listening and working together to understand the concern, that’s how I intend to proceed.

TDG: The previous administration of the University was criticized by the A university campaign for failing to provide enough support to the Flint and Dearborn campuses and causing subsequent budget cuts. As president, how do you plan to engage with the three college campuses and plan to have a more hands-on approach to the Flint and Dearborn campuses than your predecessors?

SO: I come from institutions that have several campuses. The University of British Columbia has another major campus inside the province called the Okanagan. I spent time on both campuses. We were also launching additional campuses in Surrey and expanding its presence in downtown Vancouver. So the only answer to your question is that you have to spend time on it. If you are not present, these communities will feel that you are not investing in them. So I’m going to spend time in Flint and Dearborn, but they have great leaders, they have chancellors, and they need my support and they’ll have my ear and they’ll have my support.

Daily News editors Anna Fifelski and George Weykamp can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected].

Santa Ono: Oh, that’s a pretty funny question. It’s a national rivalry. So, I might ask you “What is the relationship between Michigan and the State of Michigan?” I would say that the University of Cincinnati shares this rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State. You’re not looking at a Buckeye fan.

As you probably know, UBC is huge – there are around 71,000 students enrolled there. It is a very comprehensive research university, like Michigan. I would say there are a lot of transferable skills and experiences between UBC and the University of Michigan. In terms of D1 sports, you have the Cincinnati Bearcats. I worked very hard to support the coaches and the sporting director there. We were able to really pave the way for a realignment of the conference in the Big 12. Michigan and Cincinnati were both Final Four teams in the college football playoffs. So I think I have a pretty good experience in D1 sports as well.

TMD: Over the past two years, the University has seen the firing of two of the most senior positions in administration: former University President Mark Schlissel for an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and former provost Martin Philbert for sexual misconduct. In light of this, how do you intend to regain the community’s trust in the administration of the University?

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