Insight

Executive Search Case Study: University AVC Facilities

University Building
Helbling worked closely with a repeat client in securing an AVC who is supporting the administration and vision of the university’s first new Chancellor in 20 years. When we recruited this executive, he held the most prestigious facility management post at the U.S. Naval Academy as the Director of Facilities and Environment. With our client, he ensures that facilities and support systems are progressive, consistent with current practices and technologies, and properly maintained to support the needs of the division. Most importantly, his management style fosters a collaborative environment where all facilities units are working in harmony toward common goals and objectives.
 

Challenge

Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities

Our client is a public research university in Pennsylvania. After completing an AVC of Planning, Design & Construction search for this institution, we were again retained to secure an Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities Management (AVC). Reporting to the Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, the AVC holds the senior leadership position for the planning, development, and preservation of university facilities and the campus environment. The AVC is responsible for all areas of Facilities Management including Planning, Design and Construction; Operations and Maintenance; Administration; Energy Management and Engineering; and Sustainability Coordination. 

Its main campus is in an urban area and has approximately 130 buildings with a total building area of 13.6M gross square feet on 145 acres of campus grounds, serving over 28,000 students and more than 12,000 employees. Facilities Management provides planning, design, and capital construction services for the main campus as well as additional regional campuses where another 6,000 plus students and nearly 1,000 employees are located.

For its AVC role, the university sought a professional who had significant leadership experience in facilities management and campus master planning. They desired a pool of candidates who had broad experience in planning, design, construction, operations, maintenance, emergency response, energy and utilities, financial management, and sustainability in a higher education environment, preferably at a research institution.

Strategy

Considering the search was initiated due to the planned retirement of a revered individual who had been with the university for over 40 years, it was particularly imperative to gain a thorough understanding of the role, as well as the experiences, abilities, and cultural fit that would be necessary for a candidate to succeed. Therefore, our consultant met with several of the university’s internal stakeholders prior to initiating recruitment activities. He worked closely with the institution’s AVC of Human Resources and search committee, and was responsible for recruiting and evaluating candidates who were identified through our own research efforts, as well as potential internal candidates from the university.

We targeted senior-level facilities executives who were in similar roles within public and private higher education institutions throughout the country. To provide a diverse representation of candidates, we also identified professionals who were in applicable roles outside of the higher education sector, such as those with large healthcare, hospitality, government, and corporate entities. The final slate of candidates consisted of 11 professionals who had varying degrees of experience, with the majority being within the higher education sector.

Results

The search committee ultimately selected a candidate who, at the time, had nearly 30 years of experience in leading large engineering and facilities management organizations. He has a reputation for being operationally focused and highly talented at optimizing resources to maximize facilities readiness. 

When Helbling recruited this executive, he held the most prestigious facility management post at the U.S. Naval Academy as the Director of Facilities and Environment, a role for which he was hand selected by Navy leadership. With the Academy, he successfully directed $125M in annual facilities repair, maintenance, and construction in alignment with the institution’s rigid academic schedule. He had proven his abilities by providing world-class campus grounds maintenance and facilities services for its 283 buildings and 2.1M annual visitors. He improved project delivery timelines using automated project tracking and effective resource leveling; leveraged business management systems and facilities asset data to improve financial reporting and asset management; and led the development, funding, and implementation of $22M in energy projects. One of his most significant achievements was successfully delivering a $1.1M renovation from conception to completion in 40 days, supporting a nearly impossible deadline for a Navy priority initiative.

With our client, the professional is supporting the administration and vision of the university’s first new Chancellor in 20 years. As is common among higher education institutions, he deals with a highly political internal environment, and is developing and implementing the institution’s comprehensive master plan with input from multiple constituencies. Coming from a military background, the professional has strong strategic analysis skills, and he believes in establishing metrics and consistently evaluating performance. 

Since joining the university, he has built a strong reputation as a consistent communicator and strong team builder by being responsive to workforce concerns and implementing a number of processes that have improved team accountability. He has developed a culture that is characterized by customer service, transparency, and accountability. He is successfully ensuring that facilities management practices and support systems are progressive, consistent with current practices and technologies, and properly maintained to support the needs of the division. Most importantly, his management style fosters a collaborative environment where all facilities units are working in harmony toward common goals and objectives.

Contact Marc Datz to learn more about this search and our experience in securing facilities executives for higher education institutions.