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Geography Department Hires Search Firm to Locate Visiting Assistant Professor

November 16, 2010

LEXINGTON—The University of Kentucky’s Department of Geography, a unit within the College of Arts & Sciences, announced that it has contracted the services of Greenwood/Asher & Associates, a corporate head-hunting firm that specializes in hires for the education sector.  The firm has been selected to locate a suitable Visiting Assistant Professor for the upcoming 2011-2012 academic year.  While the final cost to the University of Kentucky has not yet been determined, the consulting services are rumored to run upwards of $300,000.

Dr. Jan Greenwood, the CEO of Greenwood/Asher & Associates.

“When the geography department approached me and asked about subcontracting its search for a Visiting Assistant Professor, I was a bit skeptical, said College of Arts & Sciences Dean Mark Kornbluh. “It didn’t make sense to me at first that we would spend a quarter-million dollars on a search for a two-year, non-tenure track position in which the employee would make $38,000 per year and teach a 4-4 load.  But then I realized how important it is that we get this search right and find the correct candidate, so I went ahead and approved the request,” said Kornbluh.

Department of Geography Chair Prof. Sue Roberts said that the decision to work with Greenwood/Asher & Associates would lighten their load significantly.

“The members of our search committee for this VAP position were getting bogged down in applications, CVs, and cover letters,” said Roberts.  “It became almost impossible to sift through the paperwork and decide on which candidate to hire.  Now our faculty can get back to stuff that matters, like their research.”

Independent consulting firms that specialize in academic hires have experienced rapid growth during the past decade.  Traditionally, firms like Greenwood/Asher & Associates were used to locate “big ticket” personnel, like Provosts, Presidents, Chairs, and Athletic Directors.  Earlier this year, the University of Michigan announced that they had spent almost $125,000 on a search for a new Athletic Director, the former CEO of Domino’s Pizza, Dave Brandon.  Nevertheless, Prof. Roberts indicated that for some reason, the Geography committee was having trouble pulling the trigger on this hire.

“There’s just a lot of qualified people out there. Every institution is idiosyncratic, and the privacy of the candidates in a search like this is a major issue,” said Roberts.

Greenwood/Asher & Associates has previously worked with UK.  The firm was hired by the Presidential Search Committee to find a replacement for Lee Todd, Jr.  It was, in fact, the same firm that hired Todd in 2001, and it appears that Greenwood/Asher & Associates hasn’t redesigned their website since then.

“I remember back when universities used to hire people themselves,” said UK Art History Professor Murray Castiglione.  “We used to talk with candidates, read their materials, and make an informed decision.”

Now, aspiring careerists in the academy fear that they will be exposed as they try to scale the corporate food chain that is higher education administration.  For instance, UK’s own Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart has denied reports that he is a candidate for the Kansas University Athletic Director position.

“I try to find candidates that would be a good fit for the institution that retains me,” said former University President and current CEO of SRP Consulting Susan Resneck Pierce.  “In other words, I do what the universities used to do themselves.”

The University of Kentucky Presidential Search Committee said that they signed on with Greenwood/Asher & Associates because of the firm’s innovative ideas for the future of university leadership in the United States.

“Eventually, we see this industry taking a radical course,” said Dr. Jan Greenwood, the firm’s CEO.  “Rather than hiring a full-time president, universities will contract out “presidential duties” to independent labor firms,” said Greenwood.  “Fundraiser speeches will demand a certain kind of talent, and we’ll have access to that.”

Roberts admitted that the Visiting Assistant Professor would serve a rather menial role in the university.

“She or he will probably teach 16 total classes, or 48 credit hours over the two years of employment.  Anyone can do that, really, but we just didn’t feel comfortable pulling off this search on our own.”

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