State Board plans to move quickly to name interim BSU president

State Board of Education officials say it’s a top priority to name a new Boise State University interim president before Bob Kustra retires and leaves campus June 30.

On May 17, the State Board voted unanimously to abandon the current search for Kustra’s successor, in favor of hiring a new search firm and starting the process over in the fall. The move was a surprise to many because the State Board had identified three finalists and initially appeared poised to make a hire.

State Board member Debbie Critchfield

Kustra’s retirement plans have not changed, and the State Board will hire an interim president to bridge the gap after Kustra’s departure.

“As a board member this is a priority to have the conversation and make a selection so we can reduce some of the anxiety about what the next year looks like,” State Board Vice President Debbie Critchfield said.

Mike Keckler, the State Board’s chief communications and legislative affairs officer, said “the board intends to name an interim president ASAP.”

“In terms of an interim president, the board is looking for a leader who will maintain Boise State’s momentum, have the trust of the students, faculty and staff and will help facilitate the transition for the next president once that individual is named,” Keckler said.

Keckler and Boise State officials also provided more details about the initial, abandoned search process.

The State Board paid the Washington, D.C.-based firm AGB Search $86,000 to conduct the search. On top of that, the state is paying consultants’ fees not to exceed $13,000. Finally, Boise State paid the candidates’ travel and lodging costs, as well as costs for public forums.

In return, AGB was responsible for coordinating the search committee, conducting on-campus open forums for faculty, staff and students and assuming the responsibility for recruiting and cultivating the candidates, Keckler said.

AGB also conducted the recent successful searches for new presidents of Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College.

The Boise State search kicked off after Kustra announced his retirement plans in November. The search attracted 53 candidates. The search committee narrowed that list to nine semifinalists. The committee further narrowed the field to five finalists, who visited campus in late April for the open forums. Then, the State Board met in executive session last week to interview three finalists, before voting to start the process over.

Crtichfield said hiring an interim president would give the new search firm and the State Board more flexibility to undertake a robust search. She also suggested the timing may be better this time, because the search committee will get a jump start on the process. Because Kustra announced his retirement plans in November, the initial search didn’t begin until well into the school year.

“We’re not in a position where we need to hurry and find (a permanent new president) in two weeks or by the summer,” Critchfield said. “It gives us some comfort as we go through the entire process again.”

Bob Kustra, photo courtesy of Boise State University

Last week, State Board President Linda Clark told Idaho Education News the presidential search will get under way in the fall. Although there is no firm timeline yet, she speculated beginning the search in the fall would put the State Board in a position to finish the search process in early 2019.

Kustra has served as Boise State’s president since 2003. During that time, he presided over more than $450 million in capital improvement projects and oversaw a period of growth that culminated with a record student enrollment during the fall of 2017.

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