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College hosts Storbeck Search for on-campus forums as latest step in search for a new president

St. Olaf hosted Storbeck Search for a series of in-person forums on April 28, alongside members of the College’s Presidential Search Committee to elicit direct community feedback on the ongoing search process as the hunt for a successor to current St. Olaf President ,David Anderson ’74, continues. 

Storbeck Search is the third-party recruitment group that the College has solicited to help facilitate the presidential search process. Their visit to campus, which represents the first time that the St. Olaf community has been able to weigh in on the search live and in-person, marks the latest step in the ongoing selection process for a new president. 

“The on-campus stakeholder sessions were incredible!” Presidential Search Committee Chair, Stephanie Fehr ’87, wrote in an emailed response to questions from the Messenger. “The energy and engagement from faculty, staff and students was palpable. We were so thrilled with the input and feedback we received.” 

This input and feedback will be presented “in aggregate” to the Board of Regents and “will be taken into consideration as we begin our candidate interviews,” according to Fehr. 

Candidate interviews mark the most significant part of the next, confidential stage of the search process, as the Presidential Search Committee reviews applications and selects candidates to interview.

The on-campus forums came shortly after the Search Committee released its Prospectus, a 23-page document that details the multitude of factors informing the search. Within the Prospectus are 13 “Desired Attributes for St. Olaf’s Next President,” developed off the back of previous community survey feedback and the initial Visioning Task Force report. First and foremost among the community’s key priorities gleaned from survey feedback was diversity, equity, and inclusion, outlined in an April 1 email from the Presidential Search Committee to the student body.

Despite the process unfolding as planned, as Fehr explained in the responses to the Messenger, there is one planned addition to the search that follows in alignment with this key priority.

“We’ve added an unconscious bias training to our timeline for members of the selection committee, which we feel will be a timely reminder of the importance of [diversity, equity, and inclusion] awareness and our commitment to an inclusive selection process,” Fehr wrote.

Community members have speculated that the chosen next president will be a woman who is not a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). This speculation follows previous reporting by the Messenger, which identified that the majority of Storbeck Search placements are women and people of color and that the Search Committee has expanded their candidate pool to include individuals from denominations “in full communion with the ELCA,” according to Fehr. All of St. Olaf’s previous 11 presidents have been white male members of the ELCA.

As the search now enters its confdential stage, the timeframe outlined initially is still in place to select a president by next spring.

“The St. Olaf community is impressive and very engaged, and we appreciate everyone who has provided input whether it’s been through the online survey, Zoom meetings or the in-person meetings last week,” Fehr wrote.