'A passion for public higher education'

CMU lays out vision for next university president

CMU President Bob Davies discusses his new strategic plan for the university Thursday, Nov. 16 in Plachta Auditorium. Davies also met with audience members after the speech. (CM-Life | Jo Kenoshmeg)

Central Michigan University’s next president should be prepared to tackle five areas identified as the “most pressing opportunities and challenges,” including shoring up enrollment and financial sustainability after a decade of student decline. 

That was among the findings of a new presidential profile compiled after a series of April listening sessions geared at gathering community input into the experience, values, characteristics and goals for the next chief executive. The document was released Thursday.

President Bob Davies announced in January that he will step down effective Dec. 31. In March, the CMU Board of Trustees opted to hire national search firm WittKieffer to assist in finding his replacement. 

Part of the work involved the listening sessions. 

About 200 students, faculty, donors, community stakeholders and supporters participated in April’s sessions, according to a university press release, and an additional 350 people provided feedback via an online form. 

That input helped steer the presidential profile, which reads as a combined celebration of the university’s academic, cultural and co-curricular offerings, and a roadmap for selecting the next campus leader. Top priorities for the incoming president include: 

  • Advancing the 2023-28 strategic plan
  • Achieving enrollment and financial sustainability
  • Furthering inclusive excellence and fostering a sense of belonging throughout the community
  • Strengthening external relationships and visibility
  • Investing in human resources and university operations

IT comes at a time of institutional transition. 

In September, the CMU Board of Trustees approved a sweeping, five-year strategic plan with priorities ranging from inspiring student and scholarly success to ensuring long-term institutional sustainability. In April, the board threw its support behind a nine-point Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice and Belonging plan designed to foster a campus community that “allows all to thrive.” 

Additionally, the university has seen fall enrollment numbers decline annually over the last decade. At its high point in 2014, the university comprised 26,363 students, compared to the 14,423 who called the institution their academic home in fall 2023, campus enrollment reports show.   

“The President provides oversight of a $434 million budget and provides leadership in support of advancing the University’s mission,” the presidential profile shows. “CMU’s next President will have the opportunity to lead a storied university toward future success. 

“CMU seeks a President who has a record of impactful leadership at the most senior levels within an organization of similar size and complexity as CMU,” the document continues. “This individual should have a passion for public higher education, embody innovation and strategic acumen and be capable of crafting a distinct vision for the institution, all while respecting its rich legacy and purpose.” 

The 48-page document also lists the qualifications and personal qualities community members and listening session participants prioritized for the next chief. The 15 points range from proven, pragmatic leadership and experiencing in budgeting, financial planning and resource management, to outstanding communication skills and a record of success with fundraising, and alumni, community and external relations. 

The university has placed a deadline of July 24 for candidates to apply, for fullest consideration.