Agenda for Leadership and Desired Attributes



Grand Valley State University has enjoyed much success and tremendous growth over the last decade under the leadership of President Thomas J. Haas. Grand Valley’s fifth president will build upon President Haas’ strong foundation and Grand Valley’s strong upward trajectory and solid financial base and create an innovative vision for Grand Valley’s future. The president is the chief executive officer and chief advocate for the institution charged with enhancing the university’s reputation within the state of Michigan and the region, throughout the nation, and around the world. Reporting to the Board of Trustees, the president has responsibility for the strategic, financial, fundraising, and management operations at Grand Valley State University.

The next leader will partner with a dynamic community of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the larger Grand Valley community in shaping Grand Valley’s next chapter. He or she will continue putting students at the heart of every decision and support its commitment to academic excellence, by encouraging and nurturing Grand Valley’s model of civic-minded teacher-scholars. The successful candidate will find a dedicated community that is eager to build upon this strong foundation and partner to advance Grand Valley’s unique place as one of the largest and most complex universities with its bedrock in liberal education.

Grand Valley’s next president must be prepared by experience and temperament to work closely with the entire community to propel the university’s history of excellence in liberal education and professional studies, to foster its personalized teaching atmosphere, and to effect even greater financial sustainability and attain greater prominence. The president will be expected to guide the discernment and articulation of goals that are both inspiring and achievable while building the will and spirit needed to attain them. The following priorities are among the most important for the next president.

Visionary and Innovative Leadership

The president will provide visionary leadership, a strong academic perspective, and ambitious long-range strategic planning skills to grow and develop an outstanding academic enterprise in areas that are a natural extension of Grand Valley’s strengths. In the ever-changing environment in higher education, the president will offer an inspiring voice for that vision, while preserving and enhancing the rich traditions and culture of Grand Valley. The new president will be courageous and willing to take calculated risks, while being anticipatory and proactive in identifying issues that may arise for Grand Valley as the landscape for public comprehensive institutions evolves. The president will be able to identify strong talent to build university leadership as long-serving administrators and faculty members reach retirement age in the coming years. The president will seek innovative and dynamic approaches to tackling the challenges posed by a rapidly changing higher education landscape.

Community Engagement, Relationship Building, and Commitment to Service

The new president will have a positive, personable, engaging, and highly visible presence on campus and in the Grand Valley community. The president will have the capacity to ask thoughtful questions, listen carefully, shape discourse, be accessible, and foster the well-established culture and practice of shared governance. Supporting faculty and honoring their central and significant contributions to the university will be crucial. Modeling and encouraging transparent decision-making will also ensure trust and nourish the spirit of mutual respect that is fundamental to the university’s identity.

Grand Valley was founded as a “community-owned enterprise” where the public good is the driver for the institution. Former presidents have a rich tradition of community engagement and have been integrated and highly invested and visible in the campus and the larger Grand Valley community. This tradition is expected to be nurtured and further developed by the fifth Grand Valley president. Community and service are the cornerstones of Grand Valley and are integral to its future growth and continued success. The new president’s ability to increase collaboration and build upon the strong relationships and partnerships within Grand Rapids and the larger region, as well as the nation and the world, will be critical.

Fundraising and Resource Generation

The new president will be Grand Valley’s chief fundraiser and ambassador. Whether focusing on endowment enhancement, increasing annual alumni giving, cultivating prospects for major or planned gifts, or initiating a future campaign, Grand Valley’s next president will have a direct impact on and will spend a significant amount of time fundraising. The president must maintain strong relationships with the existing donor community, which is particularly strong in the Grand Rapids region and provide 80 percent of philanthropic support for the university, as well as foster new relationships that will ensure Grand Valley’s continued service for future generations.

The president must be a strong financial manager, knowledgeable about academic business models, keenly aware of the broader higher education landscape, innovative with regard to forging new revenue streams, possess a firm understanding of state-appropriated funding, and be capable of adjusting the business plan to ensure the university’s continued financial security. The next president must have the ability to work skillfully, collaboratively, and effectively with state government in Lansing to articulate the university’s mission and advocate for support for its programs. The next president of Grand Valley should ensure faculty and staff understand that outreach to alumni, parents, and the broader community is everyone’s responsibility to build a thriving, vibrant university.

Creative Enrollment Management

The next president must have a firm understanding of enrollment management issues and national demographic trends and seek to ensure continued stabilized enrollments for the university. Professional studies, as well as graduate and certificate programs, are particular growth areas for the university. The president will be innovative and entrepreneurial in enrollment management to ensure that programs remain competitive and relevant, have a broad reach, and utilize an appropriate variety of delivery modes of curriculum to ensure the greatest potential for success. The next president will also ensure that issues of retention and student success are appropriately considered to ensure continued stable enrollment.

Commitment to Excellence in Liberal Education and Professional Studies

Grand Valley benefits from a strong reputation within Michigan and the region as being a large, complex, comprehensive educational leader with a personal campus ethos founded in the liberal arts tradition. With a firm sense of mission and established success, the university will look to the next president to continue its commitment to academic excellence and its strong tradition of being one of the leading universities in Michigan. With an average class size of 26, students benefit from close-knit relationships with dedicated and engaged faculty members. With this solid academic foundation in place, Grand Valley has a great opportunity to engage in more interdisciplinary and collaborative academic models that will sustain and enhance academic rigor, develop and grow graduate and adult-learner programs, and overall challenge students to solve real-world problems, and be prepared to lead in the 21st century market.

Advancing the University’s Reputation

The next president will be an ardent champion for Grand Valley. The president will work to extend Grand Valley’s recognition beyond its Midwest footprint to the national and international level. The president will celebrate the institution’s programs and culture and serve as a constant champion for the excellent work of students, faculty, and staff. The president will also be knowledgeable about issues impacting higher education and be able to identify ways to involve the university in dialogues about such issues in a manner that will strengthen its recognition and appeal to prospective students, parents, alumni, friends, donors, peers at other universities, government and nonprofit entities, and additional influential stakeholders — helping to ensure that enrollments and funding sources continue to be strong and diverse.

Strengthening and Celebrating Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

Grand Valley is committed to fostering a diverse faculty, staff, and student population and sustaining a welcoming and inclusive living, learning, and working environment. The president will play a central role in signaling to the university community the ongoing importance of Grand Valley’s efforts to diversify the student body, faculty, and staff. Moreover, the president will expand a culture in which widely diverse values, experiences, and ideas are welcomed and viewed as essential in the development of academic excellence. These are crucial tasks for all institutions of higher learning, and it is important that the president possess the skills, passion, and commitment to advance these efforts.


Grand Valley seeks a dynamic servant-leader who offers a demonstrated record of innovative, inspiring, and entrepreneurial leadership in an academic setting or similarly complex organization. Informed by wisdom and experience to anticipate and identify areas of opportunity, this individual will provide thoughtful strategic direction and will engender widespread support for and excitement about the future of Grand Valley. The president will embrace the distinctive nature of Grand Valley, be a compelling advocate for the university’s goals, and leverage opportunities in the area of development and fundraising. The next president will bring a highly relational approach, authenticity, and self-confidence balanced with humility, integrity of the highest order, and a strong work ethic. A demonstrated record of leading a large complex organization at the most senior level is required. Advanced degrees are expected; experience in related fields will be considered.

The successful candidate will

• be a strategic and visionary leader and planner with a proven ability to articulate a clear and coherent plan, implement the plan, and unify constituents behind it;
• be an accomplished leader, with a strong commitment to public education, who is knowledgeable about key issues affecting large, public, comprehensive, multi-campus institutions nationally;
• be an inclusive and equitable leader with a deep understanding of and respect for the university’s commitment to a strong culture of shared governance;
• have an appreciation for excellence in academic pursuits, including teaching and scholarship at both the undergraduate and graduate levels;
• be an effective interpreter of the academic mission of the university, including the importance of assessments and its value in quality education to various constituencies;
• have a commitment to assuring access to education and opportunities for educational success for all persons, including those enrolled in K-12 public school academies chartered by the university;
• be student-centered with a strong knowledge of student recruitment, retention, and the issues that affect students’ success both inside and outside the classroom, especially accessibility and affordability;
• have a strong track record of identifying talent and be an affirming team builder who will empower others and optimize the effectiveness of a wise and committed leadership team;
• have the ability to lead faculty, students and staff in working together to establish a clear sense of institutional identity and pride;
• have a deep and unflagging personal commitment to treating all people with respect coupled with broad experience with diverse students, faculty, and communities, resulting in a diverse and integrated, inclusive environment;
• be a transparent and pragmatic decision-maker who builds consensus, prioritizes well, delegates and communicates decisions with promptness and care, and who can make hard decisions when necessary;
• have a commitment to the development of strong internal and external communities;
• be a willing and successful fundraiser with a record of success in garnering resources; public, private, individual, and corporate;
• have a proven ability to work skillfully, collaboratively, and effectively with state government to articulate a mission and obtain support for the university’s programs;
• show evidence of successful interactions with governing boards;
• have an understanding of the importance of being accessible, open, honest, and have the ability to make all feel that they are valued contributors to the life of the university;
• have superb communication, public speaking, and crisis management skills and the ability to represent the university in a compelling manner to various constituencies locally, nationally, and internationally;
• be an energetic, optimistic, resilient leader with good humor who will provide respected, long-term leadership; and
• possess an empathetic personal style that balances confidence with humility.


The Grand Valley Presidential Search Advisory Committee will evaluate the applicant pool beginning in summer 2018. Candidates should submit materials as soon as possible, but no later than August 20, 2018. The new president is expected to begin work on July 1, 2019.

This search will be fully confidential throughout the process. Applications should include a letter of candidacy that responds to the agenda for leadership and the desired attributes for a new president, a complete résumé or vita, and a list of five professional references (please note references will not be contacted until later in the process, and only with permission). All application materials will be considered in full confidence and should be submitted electronically to

Dr. Thomas Fitch, partner; Ms. Julie E. Tea, partner; and Ms. Julie Williams-Krishnan, senior associate at Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, LP are assisting Grand Valley with this search. Nominators and prospective candidates are encouraged to contact them at to arrange confidential conversations.

Grand Valley State University is guided by values for inclusiveness and community which are integral to our mission to educate students to shape their lives, their professions, and their societies, and to enrich the community through excellent teaching, active scholarship, and public service. The university is an affirmative action, equal opportunity institution. It encourages diversity and provides equal opportunity in education, employment, all of its programs, and the use of its facilities. Members of the university community, including candidates for employment or admissions, and visitors or guests have the right to be free from acts of harassment and discrimination, including sexual misconduct, which are prohibited if they discriminate or harass on the basis of age, color, disability, familial status, height, marital status, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex/gender (including gender identity and expression), sexual orientation, veteran or active duty military status or weight. The university will provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. See TDD Callers: Call Michigan Relay Center 1-800-649-3777.

Page last modified May 3, 2018