Efforts to find Montana State University Billings' new chancellor began in earnest on Tuesday when Waded Cruzado, president of the Montana State University system, met with an 18-person committee and laid out her vision for the search.
"I am asking you to go out, look for the best and the brightest in the nation and bring back the best candidates to this campus," she said.
It was the first meeting of the search committee, named last week by Cruzado, to find a new chancellor. Rolf Groseth announced in January that he will retire from the post at the end of the academic school year.
She tasked the group — which includes officials from MSUB, MSU, Billings School District 2, local business groups, the Montana University System Board of Regents and the MSUB student body, among others — with beginning immediately and conducting a thorough search, locally and nationwide.
"One of my expectations is that you are not going to just wait for applications to come in," she said. "You are going to search."
Terry Leist, committee chairman and MSUB's vice president for administration and finance, said the next step after Tuesday's meeting will be for the committee to discuss more about what it wants and put together a position description.
"We've started that here today," he said.
The committee will narrow a field of applicants — chosen from what's likely to be a national pool — to three to five people and bring them in for campus visits and interviews, ideally before school gets out in May in order to be there while the student body is present.
Cruzado said she expects quick action, but advised the committee to also take the time necessary to find the best candidates.
"We expect to have someone here as soon as possible, but we want to do it right," she said.
She and committee members alike said the search provides MSUB the opportunity to reflect on the university's place in Montana and the MSU system and what's made it successful in the past while looking to the future and identifying not only where it's headed, but where officials want it to be.
Todd Buchanan is wrapping up a term on the state Board of Regents and sits on the committee.
He said the search and eventual hiring provides "a huge opportunity" for the university to define what makes it stand out within the community of Billings, the region and the state university system.
"Finding somebody that can inspire that level of community engagement is going to be that first big step," he said.
Representatives from R.H. Perry and Associates, a search firm specializing in higher education hired to help, also attended Tuesday's meeting.
Cruzado told the committee that she chose each member in hopes that they would speak for not only themselves, but the constituencies they represent, and that she wants them to listen to those people during the process.
She also said that she didn't plan to "dictate remotely from Bozeman" how the search is conducted and will allow the committee independence to make decisions on its own.
"Go out and find the right person for the job at this point in time for this campus," Cruzado said.
Many of the search details moving forward will likely be confidential in order to protect the identities of the various candidates as they apply and are considered for the position.
Searches also are underway for several other vacant high-profile positions at or related to MSUB; vice chancellor of student affairs and CEO and president of the MSUB Foundation.
Cruzado said that higher education institutions are always in a state of flux and that, with the MSUB positions possibly being filled around the same time, it allows for the new hires to learn about and shape the university together while relying on those already in place.
"The entire Montana University System has been through this entire cycle before, of following extraordinary leaders," she said. "It's important to open this process up."