Months after the departure of Bob Shea, Elon University’s previous chief financial officer, a search committee has begun the lengthy process to name a new vice president of business, finance and technology.
The committee, led by Jen Platania, associate dean of the Love School of Business, and Jim Piatt, vice president of university advancement, will conduct a national search to identify candidates and administer interviews for the position.
The search will take place this fall despite the temporary hiring freeze on many faculty and staff positions. Elon initiated the freeze after North Carolina Gov.Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Shea began at Elon in June 2017, serving as associate vice president of business, finance and technology under Gerald Whittington, the division’s longtime senior vice president. Two years later, when Whittington was appointed to senior vice president of the university, Shea assumed the position of vice president of business, finance and technology, and as such, the responsibilities of Elon’s CFO.
President Connie Book credited Shea in part for Elon’s rank as second “best run college” by the Princeton Review in a 2019 press release announcing his appointment to CFO.
The CFO supervises the financial management of the university and oversees the nine divisions of the Office of Business, Finance and Technology: business and financial operations, internal audit, Physical Plant, technology, human resources, campus safety and police, auxiliary services, administrative services and planning and design and construction management.
The CFO is a member of senior staff and advises Book and the Board of Trustees on financial matters.
On March 31, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro announced that Shea would assume the position of the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration at the University on May 1, less than a year after he transitioned to his new role at Elon.
“As we do for all of our faculty, staff and administrator searches, the university aims to hire talented individuals who will remain at Elon for a long time,” Platania wrote in email to Elon News Network. “However, as is often the case with talented staff members, other opportunities arise that folks feel present a better match for them.”
Following Shea’s departure, Whittington planned to take over the role in the interim while continuing his responsibilities as senior vice president and special assistant to the president.
However, on Aug. 10, Elon faculty and staff received an email from Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Board of Trustees Patrick Noltemeyer explaining that Whittington had taken an unexpected medical leave and would be unable to fulfill his duties as interim vice president.
“He has given me permission to share the good news that he is making excellent progress in recovering from a stroke,” Noltemeyer wrote. “He is working with doctors on a longer-term recovery plan. That will determine when he will be able to return to his work.”
Noltemeyer said Associate Vice President for Business and Finance Susan Kirkland will head the division this fall. She will be assisted by other leaders of the office, along with Executive Vice President Steven House and Provost Aswani Volety.
Kirkland forwarded Elon News Network's request for an interview to university communications, who declined on her behalf.
After committee membership is finalized at the end of August, the group will select and partner with a specialized search firm to identify a national and “highly-qualified and diversified” candidate pool, according to Platania.
“This is a very important role,” Platania said. “Thus we need to make sure we find the very best candidates, both for this position and for Elon.”
When identifying candidates, the committee will consider depth of experience, management competencies and familiarity with higher education, she explained. Beyond that, they must demonstrate a commitment to Elon.
“We will look for a candidate that holds the same values as Elon holds: transparency, commitment to diversity and inclusion and an appreciation for our commitment to shared governance” Platania said.
After the candidate pool is finalized, the search committee will conduct first-round interviews and select a “small list of finalists.” The finalists will then undergo reference and background checks before participating in a final interview with the committee and other campus representatives.
The search committee will make their final recommendation to Book and the Board of Trustees, and an offer will be extended. But given the uncertainty of the pandemic, Platania expects to face some unique challenges throughout the process.
She said candidates may be cautious to take on a new position and institution during the pandemic. Logistically, the committee will face additional obstacles, including conducting first- round interviews virtually, rather than face-to-face.
Platania said she is confident, though, that in spite of any obstacles, the committee will be flexible and vigilant, conducting an extensive search to provide Elon with a deserving nominee.
“While it will certainly look different,” she said, “we believe we will still be able to properly and thoroughly find and vet a high-quality pool of candidates this fall.”