Dear Members of the USIU-Africa Community, Supporters and Friends—Greetings!
The Process of Finding the 5th Vice Chancellor of USIU-Africa The outcome of the search for a new Vice Chancellor at USIU-Africa is successful on many fronts: not only was an outstanding individual—Professor Paul Tiyambe Zeleza—selected and appointed, we must also note that a celebratory and dignified exit was made for the previous Vice Chancellor, Professor Freida Brown.
The installation of Professor Zeleza as the 5th Vice Chancellor of USIU-A takes place on Thursday, April 7, 2016. This special event marks the culmination of a series of intense activities that effectively began four years ago, in November, 2012, but kicked into high gear during the months between November 2014 and July 2015 when most of the activities and events at the heart of the search took place.
Looking back on that intensive 9-month period, there were some key aspects of the search process that set the foundation for the transition we celebrate on April 7th.
In brief they are:
• An open, inclusive, and transparent process with faculty, students, administrators, and staff working together with the Board of Trustees
• Clear protocols and deadlines while respecting the ‘bottom line’ and resource limitations
• Campus-wide assessment of the final candidates in Barazas, smaller campus meetings, and online surveys to ensure all voices were heard and opinions expressed
• Securing the privacy and confidentiality of candidates within an inclusive framework
• An international search assisted by a professional, experienced education recruiting firm
Inclusivity and Transparency: A professional academic recruiter with international experience was retained to seek out the best candidates possible. The Board of Trustees felt very strongly that the university needed someone at the helm who could consolidate our gains and provide the impetus for a marked upward trajectory of achievements. As a result, the Board developed a list of priority issues to guide the recruitment of the best person possible. This was undertaken with the participation and support of the entire campus community. In addition to regular members of the community, the USIU-Africa Alumni Association also made a dedicated effort and took part in campus meetings with the finalists. The strength of an involved and engaged university community resulted in feedback that said, from this perspective: “we got it right.” Without a doubt, having an inclusive and transparent process where all members of the USIU-Africa community had a part to play in event leading up to the final selection was the linchpin for a successful search.
Guidelines and Agreed Protocols: The importance of having all members of the Search Committee remain “on message” during telephone interviews as we whittled down the initial 65 applicants to a more manageable 16 and then 8 cannot be understated. The scope of interviews, therefore, was scripted to ensure that all questions were covered during reference calls. Similarly, in scoring the initial applicants: 8 criteria listed in the search profile as “must have” skills, competencies, qualifications, and experience carried the most weight in vetting candidates. These criteria (listed here in random order) were: strategic planning; fundraising and development; financial management and resource development; fostering of community trust; strengthening academic programs and fostering research activity; experience with accreditation; experience working with a board; and leadership and communication skills. Decisions were arrived at by consensus.
Openness and Feedback: Managing campus expectations and maintaining focus on the fact that all the activities were designed to provide the Board of Trustees with sufficient information to make the best decision for USIU-Africa was ongoing. The recognition that the final decision rested with the Board and that role of the committee was not to recommend any particular candidate but to lay out a complete itemization of data arising from the search process did not stifle openness. In fact, feedback to the Search Committee and the Board through the online surveys, at the Barazas and at meetings was thoughtful, frank and often very blunt. Members of the USIU-Africa community minced no words in voicing their concerns, ideas and enthusiasm for one candidate or the other and provided convincing arguments to back up their opinions. All told, we as a community are fortunate to have had the enviable luxury of selecting from among a solid group of applicants and finalists and the Board benefited from the candid feedback in arriving at a decision.
Privacy and Confidentiality: The University Legal Counsel Ms. Helen Ambasa, served as Coordinator to the Search Committee. Her functions included serving as the main point of contact between the search firm and the committee. She also ensured that all forms of data and information were maintained securely and was trouble-shooter for potential legal concerns. Her role was essential in ensuring that the privacy and confidentiality of candidates was maintained at all times throughout the process. That being said, the feedback from all semi-finalists and finalists was real appreciation for the warm welcome they were accorded by USIU-Africa during their campus tours and two-day campus visits, respectively.
Professional Support for an International Search: There was very little room for error in conducting the search and it was important to spread as wide a net as possible in announcing the search. Sourcing in the Consultant’s network alone included emails to 400 directors of international education/international programs, private and public. Use of an international search firm and targeted advertising in a substantial number of forums and media outlets both within Kenya and internationally, was crucial for securing wide range of candidates. The outcome was a fine cross-section of 65 applicants hailing from East, West and Southern Africa, Europe, the Americas, and South Asia. Their professional qualifications included expertise in engineering, the medical and social sciences, business and management. While the overall quality of the candidate pool was very strong, however, our efforts yielded far fewer female applicants than hoped for. This speaks to the need to continue to encourage and support high level academic opportunities for advancement by African and African diaspora women.
Closing Thoughts and Lessons Learned
The search process was an invaluable experience that forged new professional relationships and friendships among all involved. There were also lessons learned. For example, having a clear strategy for public announcements was very important in ensuring that the campus community was updated at key points during the search process. Also, the need for clear and ongoing communication throughout the process both within the Search Committee, from the Committee to the (then) Vice Chancellor and the Board of Trustees, as well as between the Committee and the consultant, was essential, but not always perfect. Some feedback received during discussions evaluating the process included the fact that time allocations for various meetings were either too lengthy or too brief; there were both benefits and disadvantages of having more rather than fewer finalist candidates; and the costs of bringing more semi-finalists to Nairobi rather than interviewing by Skype or in smaller, separate committees had to be evaluated in light of our long-term goals.
Ultimately, the neutral, off-site interviews in Nairobi proved invaluable as those intensive sessions validated the overall excellence of the candidates in person and forced everyone involved to spend the time carefully weighing the merits of each individual against the needs and aspirations of USIU-Africa. Members of the Search Committee deserve credit for a really strong attendance record and a willingness to maintain open communication, even where differences of opinion existed. Having the protocols in place for evaluating the candidates was a great help here as it was tedious and time-consuming to wade through each level of criteria for each candidate while avoiding becoming lost in the detail.
In addition to all this, there were various unanticipated internal and external challenges to the university’s morale, not the least of which were the untimely transitions of important people such as ICT Director Ms. Regina Mutoko, and University Trustee Professor Barbara Mahone Brown.
University leadership is often a balancing act between equally important imperatives. But at USIU-Africa we can take pride in the fact that when it comes to being the best, there is no compromise. On that note, it is a pleasure to conclude this summary of the search process with hearty congratulations to Professor Paul Zeleza on the historic occasion of his installation as Vice Chancellor, United States International University-Africa.
Dr. Lola Odubekun,
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees
Co-Chair, Search Committee
March 23, 2016
INTRODUCTION: The Board of Trustees believes a successful presidential transition from the current Vice Chancellor, Prof. Freida A. Brown to the new Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza is critical. Therefore in collaboration with the Board, I have created a transition team for the purpose of planning a successful transition of the outgoing and incoming Vice Chancellors.
PURPOSE: The Charge to the VC Transition Committee is to develop a transition plan with a variety of key activities to be accomplished within the transition period (October 1st to 31st December, 2015) and the first year of the new Vice Chancellor (January 1st 2016 to 31st December 2016). The transition team is expected to create a transition plan that will help the incoming Vice Chancellor become familiar with important contacts and relationships, the university culture and the greater community. The team will identify key goals and activities to accomplish those goals. Some of the activities include celebratory events for the outgoing Vice Chancellor as well as planning and coordinating the inauguration. A primary focus of the plan will be to facilitate a collaborative and inclusive transition process for Prof. Paul Zeleza as well as ensure a dignified exit for the outgoing VC, Prof. Freida A. Brown.
The plan will be designed to build mutual trust with internal and external communities, and to ensure transparency and open communication throughout and beyond the transition process, which will include providing the Board of Trustees and other stakeholders with regular updates on the progress of the transition. The plan will also take into account the fact that the university constituents remaining will need closure.
TEAM COMPOSITION: The transition team is an advisory group composed of members who represent a variety of stakeholders. It is chaired by Kris Senanu and includes 3 additional Trustees. Amb. Prof. Ruthie Rono (Deputy Vice Chancellor - Academic Affairs) will act as the co-Chair for the Internal Transition Team whilst Ms. Helen P. Ambasa (University Legal Counsel) will serve as the Secretary to the Committee as well as liaison to the Board of Trustees. There will be other members co-opted into the Committee based on the constituent groups they represent. Finally, implementation of the transition plan will be the responsibility of the entire university community.
This message serves as notice to the full Board and Campus community that this team is now in place and has the full support of the Board to execute its mandate.Manu Chandaria, OBE, EBS
Board of Trustees
United States International University - Africa
Nairobi, Kenya, 16th September 2015: The Board of Trustees of the United States International University-Africa (USIU-A) has today announced the appointment of Dr. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza as the institution’s new Vice Chancellor, with effect from 1 January, 2016.
The decision was made by The Board of Trustees, the University’s governing body, after a rigorous, extensive recruitment process which kicked off a few months ago. The resolution to pick a new Vice Chancellor followed the announcement of the impending retirement of Prof. Freida Brown, who has served the University for the last 21 years.
Dr. Zeleza is the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of History at Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut. He joined Quinnipiac after serving as Dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts as well as Professor of History and African American Studies at Loyola Marymount University.
Prior to that Dr. Zeleza was Head of the Department of African American Studies and the Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He also taught at the Pennsylvania State University, and was Director of the Centre for African Studies and Professor of History and African Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Zeleza is a Malawian national.
Making the announcement, the University’s Chancellor Dr Manu Chandaria said: “We are delighted to announce this appointment, well aware of both the promise and the challenges facing the new leadership the university now seeks. All parties are committed to helping the Dr. Zeleza succeed, for this success will mean fulfilment of USIU-Africa’s promise to be a transformative institution in Kenya and the region.”
Dr. Chandaria recognised immense contribution of the outgoing Vice Chancellor Prof. Brown to the development of the University, noting that her excellent leadership, spanning over two decades, has helped position USIU-A as the region’s premier, private institution.
Speaking on the appointment, Prof. Brown said: “I am pleased that the University has appointed Dr. Zeleza as my successor. He is a distinguished academic and manager who has much to offer the University at all levels. I wish him every success in continuing the development of the United States International University-Africa and its work.”
Dr Zeleza will work in close alignment with the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and other members of the Management Council, to oversee a broad spectrum of activities including the four academic schools, student affairs, admissions, registration, library, faculty development, information technology, operations and the implementation of the strategic plan.
Dr. Zeleza’s academic work has traversed traditional boundaries, ranging from economic and intellectual history to human rights, gender studies and diaspora studies. He has published more than 300 journal articles, book chapters, reviews, short stories and online essays and authored or edited 27 books, several of which have won international awards including Africa’s most prestigious book prize, the Noma Award, for his books A Modern Economic History of Africa (1993) andManufacturing African Studies and Crises (1997).
His most recent books include In Search of African Diasporas: Testimonies and Encounters (2012) and Africa’s Resurgence: Domestic, Global and Diaspora Transformations (2014) and Transformations in Global Higher Education (forthcoming). He has presented nearly 250 keynote addresses, papers, and public lectures at leading universities and international conferences in 31 countries and served on the editorial boards of more two dozen journals and book series and edited a personal online magazine, The Zeleza Post, from 2004-2012.
The incoming Vice Chancellor will join a vibrant academic community boasting a diverse student body of close to 6,000 students represents 69 nationalities - 15 percent of whom are international.