Dear Olin community,

Thank you to all who have participated generously in our many forms of outreach, and especially those who were able to spend the day with us at the community retreat on Monday, May 20. We have spent many hours poring over the materials you produced, listening to your ideas and concerns, and synthesizing an understanding of what we collectively seek in Olin’s next president. As promised, this email is intended to share some of what we have heard. 

In our next president, you seek humility, a strategic visionary leader with a transparent leadership style, a person who is a strong listener with experience in and enthusiasm for fostering an inclusive community. You emphasize a strong ethical compass, a commitment to sustainability, experience with fundraising, and a collaborative style of decision-making.

You challenged us to tell Olin’s story in distinctive ways and to create an Olinesque experience for our candidates. You’ve given us a rich set of suggestions as to how we might do this, from time machines and invisibility cloaks, to presidential karaoke and speed dating, to clever mechanisms for balancing confidentiality and deep mutual engagement. Through it all, you made it clear that our next president needs to be someone who appreciates Olin as it is and can support us in embodying our aspirations.  That president must come to know us, and we must come to know them.

As the retreat drew to a close and we more fully digested the artifacts around us, we heard and saw a number of things that stood out. You worry — as we all do — about how much there is to consider; about missing stakeholders; about confirmation bias and regression to the mean and pendulum effects. You worry about tensions between what we’re proud to have accomplished and what we aspire to become. You worry both that the process is too constrained and that we are too unwilling to embrace realities; that we are losing our connection to, or are too wedded to, engineering; that we are not being creative enough, or not pragmatic enough. You worry about unrealistic expectations leading to disappointment. 

You were surprised by the community’s creativity and by our alignment; by our lack of clarity around institutional vision and by our emphasis on humility. You appreciated the community-building impact of the process. You were delighted to recognize shared values and aspirations and to see the emphasis on inclusivity, sustainability, creativity and boldness. You were inspired by the level and depth of engagement, our optimism, and the commitment to openness and transparency.

You can click here to see the full set of materials produced at the retreat.

Your work at the retreat is informing our search in several ways:  

  • In July, our partners at Witt/Kieffer will be publishing the presidential prospectus (essentially, our “job ad” for Olin’s presidency). This document reflects what we heard from you and from other members of our community over the past nine months, and it distills our aspirations for Olin’s next president. Of course, part of what we learned is that Oliners have a diversity of opinions, and a single document only begins to frame that space. We hope that you will find it resonant with your own views.
  • The full set of scanned retreat materials is available to Witt/Kieffer as they begin to speak with candidates. They will draw on these as appropriate to help convey a sense of Olin’s unique culture.
  • Building on your ambitious suggestions, we are continuing to shape our processes and to find ways to “Olinize” the experience of candidates. As one small example, we have preserved the physical materials from the retreat and are developing plans to integrate them into our interviewing this fall. 
  • As we move into consideration of candidates in the fall, your voices will be front and center in our minds and the minds of the search committee. The materials you produced and our continuing synthesis of them will keep us focused on the needs and desires of our community.

Beverly Wyse                                                   Lynn Andrea Stein

Chair, Search Committee                                 Vice-Chair, Search Committee