Presidential Search

Position profile

President – Virginia Commonwealth University

Review the position advertisement [PDF] posted in The Chronicle of Higher Education.


Virginia Commonwealth University is the largest university in Virginia, has a number of highly ranked programs by U.S. News and World Report, and an impressive multi-disciplined research enterprise. Located on two downtown campuses in Richmond, VCU enrolls over 32,000 students in 205 certificate and degree programs; sixty-five of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 15 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise the highly respected VCU Medical Center.

The University takes its founding date of 1838 from the year the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) was created as the medical department of Hampden-Sydney College. MCV became independent in 1854 and state-affiliated in 1860. VCU’s Monroe Park Campus began in 1917 as the Richmond School of Social Work and Public Health. In 1925, it became the Richmond division of the College of William and Mary; and in 1939, its name was changed to the Richmond Professional Institute. It separated from William and Mary in 1962 to become an independent state institution. In 1968, MCV and RPI merged to become Virginia Commonwealth University.

The University is governed by a 16 member Board of Visitors with each member appointed for up to two four year terms by the Governor. The Rector, chairman of the Board, is elected annually by the Board from among its members. The President reports directly to the Board. The President is also currently President of the VCU Health System and is Chairman of the Board of Directors of this autonomous, but integrated authority.


VCU is a thriving public urban university located in a highly attractive setting. Notable characteristics of its culture include:

  • A university that embraces change to an uncommon degree.
  • A university that has considerable momentum that it wants to continue.
  • A university with a rich array of programs (including a distinguished arts program and a comprehensive medical center), and talented faculty and staff.
  • A university with meaningful international programs, including a fully accredited campus of the School of the Arts in Qatar that is celebrating its tenth anniversary.
  • A university that is highly engaged with its community and benefits from the renewed interest in an urban environment from faculty candidates.
  • A university with high student interest and demand.
  • A university with a dynamic, financially stable, and patient-oriented health system.
  • A university with multiple positive data trend lines (student demand; student quality; student retention and graduation rates).
  • A university that functions effectively as a result of the depth and talent of its administration.
  • A university that has location, location, location. (Little snow; lots of activities; proximity to several major cities, beaches, and mountains; good quality of life and reasonable cost-of-living.)


VCU consists of fifteen schools and one college offering 62 baccalaureate, 69 masters, 31 doctoral, 3 first professional, and 40 certificate programs. The University is fully accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and programs subject to disciplinary accreditation are fully accredited.

The college and schools are as follows:

College of Humanities and Sciences
   L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
   School of Mass Communications
   School of World Studies
School of Allied Health Professions
School of the Arts
School of Business
School of Dentistry
School of Education
School of Engineering
School of Medicine (including the emerging School of Public Health)
School of Nursing
School of Pharmacy
School of Social Work
VCU Graduate School
VCU Life Sciences


Stakeholder meetings and subsequent discussions with the various constituent groups of the University indicate the following areas of priority for the next President and the entire University community:

Academic Quality

While the University enjoys a positive reputation for the quality of its programs, there is consensus that academic program quality must always be at the forefront of university priorities.  This priority dwarfed all others when discussed with stakeholders. In addition, the University is viewed widely as “The University of Opportunity”, and there is a genuine and deep appreciation for the diversity, in every sense, in the student body that results from that recognition. 

Academic Integration

Priority should be given to additional integration between its two campuses and also within each campus. There is a renewed sense of priority towards interdisciplinary activities including teaching, research, and medical team training. VCU is seen as being well positioned to expand its interdisciplinary work.

Expanding and Diversifying the Resource Base

Though there is appreciation for how VCU has competed for state resources, particularly capital funds, there is also widespread recognition that VCU’s ambitions will require a deeper resource base, especially as the state budget is not likely to be that robust for some time.  Increased competitiveness for federal research funds, increased private giving, increased tuition, and increased entrepreneurial activity are all areas for concentrated attention.

Strengthening the Research Enterprise

VCU ranks 73rd nationally for total research dollars and 65th for federal research among public institutions. While these rankings are consistent with several of its peer institutions (public urban universities with medical schools), VCU has a number of peers with top 50 research rankings. The University is well positioned in many areas and, with increased emphasis on interdisciplinary research, prospects for additional research funding are promising.

Maximizing Diversity

Stakeholders are proud of the diversity of the student body and the richness that it brings to the educational setting. That diversity, however, has yet to be matched at the senior administration, faculty and staff level even though progress has been made. Opportunities are available to diversify the senior administration as well as faculty and staff.

Smart Growth

Enrollment growth has been important to VCU for visibility and funding purposes, but there is acknowledgement that future growth has to be managed carefully and has to be closely aligned with the available resources. There is concern that the growth has outstripped at least the human infrastructure, and in some cases, the physical infrastructure. Growth must not be allowed to detract attention from quality, and hence, it must be managed carefully.

Branding and Marketing

VCU’s visibility and reputation have advanced markedly, but primarily at a local and state level, although out-of-state enrollment has increased significantly over the past several years. The University is poised to build a greater national reputation, especially if VCU advances a quality agenda for its teaching, research, and community engagement missions.


VCU has had an impressive physical transformation over the last eighteen years. While additional facilities will be required in the future, emphasis on the physical infrastructure is superseded by evolving technology needs as well as human infrastructure needs. Human infrastructure will need to be examined to ensure adequate support across the board to support an expanded research base, student success, and further engagement with the community.


Desired Background

  • A combination of academic credentials and/or intellectual abilities sufficient to command the respect of the faculty along with the management skills sufficient to earn the respect of the Governor, legislature, donors, and the state-wide business community.
  • A proven track-record of building a strong talented and diverse senior management team and of having the confidence to delegate broadly to that team. A commitment to distributed leadership.
  • A proven track-record of results in diversity at the senior management, faculty, staff, and student levels.
  • An ability to garner resources from multiple sources (including the state, the federal government, private giving, and entrepreneurial activities).
  • A broad knowledge and insights into the roles of teaching/learning, of research and graduate education, and of medical and medically related education.
  • A familiarity and understanding of the current and future issues impacting an urban academic health system.
  • A demonstrated comfort level with operating in a political environment on local, state, regional, and federal levels.
  • An understanding of and an appreciation for urban issues, including the role of an “engaged university.”
  • A commitment to, and a proven track-record in, international programs and activities.
  • A commitment to appropriate and meaningful shared governance, including with the Board of Visitors, faculty, staff and students.
  • An interest in, and the ability to advance, the reputation of the University at the local, state, regional, national, and international levels.
  • A demonstrated ability to foster institutional pride and loyalty.

Desired Characteristics

  • Strong core values, including impeccable integrity, sound judgment, and a commitment to transparency.
  • Well developed interpersonal skills, including listening skills, that are effective with all stakeholders.
  • Confident and self-secure; charismatic yet collaborative; tough skinned yet warm-hearted.
  • Open, encouraging, and welcoming of new ideas from stakeholders.
  • Entrepreneurial in spirit; consensus building by nature; yet decisive in decision making when needed.
  • Intellectual curiosity, well developed critical thinking skills, a penchant for data informing decisions, and a passion for learning.
  • Comfortable with complexity, ambiguity, challenges to authority, and high visibility.
  • A consistency of purpose; a tireless work ethic; a balanced life; and a sense of humor.


The Board of Visitors is being assisted in the search by Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc. and is also being advised by Stephen R. Portch. For fullest consideration, application materials must be received prior to November 30, 2008. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until an appointment is made. Application materials should include a letter addressing how the candidate’s experience matches the position requirements, curriculum vitae, together with the names, titles, and contact information for at least five references. Submission of materials as an MS Word or Acrobat attachment is strongly encouraged. Individuals wishing to place names in nomination should submit a letter or e-mail of nomination which includes the name, position, address and telephone number of the nominee. Requests for information, written nominations, and application materials should be directed to:

Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc.
Dr. Jan Greenwood or Dr. Betty Turner Asher
42 Business Center Drive, Suite 206
Miramar Beach, FL 32550
Phone: (850) 650-2277
Fax: (850) 650-2272

For more information see the Web site at