What stakeholders hope to see in Temple’s next president

The university has released the findings of a comprehensive feedback report detailing stakeholders’ preferences for a new leader.

Temple University's "University Voices" report, compiled from 30 hours of listening sessions and 2,144 surveys, outlines stakeholder priorities for the next president, emphasizing safety, community engagement, and financial sustainability. | WILL KIRKPATRICK / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Following more than 30 hours of listening sessions and 2,144 survey responses from stakeholders, Temple now has a comprehensive feedback report of what some university community members would like to see in Temple’s next president.

Board of Trustees Chairman Mitchell Morgan announced the completion of the “University Voices” report on Nov. 7, collated by The Collective Genius, a research and strategy firm assisting with the presidential search. The report highlighted what faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni believe are the most important qualities and opportunities of the position.

“We are extremely happy with the work done by The Collective Genius and of course incredibly grateful for the invaluable feedback we received from the community,” Morgan wrote in a press release. “This effort will help us establish our guiding principles to find the best candidate for the job.”

The university’s Presidential Search Advisory Committee will work with executive leadership firm Spencer Stuart to refine the job description using the report and begin recruiting and interviewing candidates with the hope of making a recommendation to the Board in Spring 2024, according to the press release.

Melinda Swan, founder and chief executive officer of TCG, said she was pleased with the participation in both the listening sessions and the online survey despite them taking place after the sudden passing of President JoAnne Epps and as the university faced a leadership transition.

“All of those things certainly impacted people’s feelings about the situation, and probably their participation levels, too,” Swan said. “But I do think that the overall level of participation was very solid, and especially on the survey side, gave us data that is within a good margin of error to make some real conclusions from.”

Thirty-five percent of the 2,144 completed surveys were from students, 26 percent were staff, 18 percent were faculty and 15 percent were alumni, according to the report. The report’s findings did not specifically denote the participation of community members or local residents.

Swan and the TCG team create their reports based on the questionnaires used during the survey period, which are oftentimes unique to the situations and opportunities at the university.

Once the survey period closed, Swan and her team, usually less than five people, began organizing notes from all of the conversations. 

The team separated responses by student, faculty, staff, alumni, or parent, and began to look for where there may be similar themes or comments, Swan said.

TCG also analyzed the quantitative and open-ended results from the survey and integrated them into the report to find more themes and see where they aligned with the listening sessions. 

Swan, who was present for all of the sessions, already had an idea of where to start and what some of the early themes were, she said.

“I had a jumpstart in terms of knowing what kinds of messaging I heard a lot from people, so that helped to guide it, but it’s really an assimilation of the qualitative and quantitative data as thoroughly as we can find a way to do it,” Swan said.

Here are some of the key findings from the 20-page report.


The first section of the report highlights participants’ opinions on university attributes and positive opportunities awaiting the next president. Among the responses, participants highlighted traits including Temple’s status as an R-1 research university, its positive economic and social impacts in Philadelphia and its “dedicated, talented faculty and staff.”

“Temple is in a position… to assert its identity and mission as a purpose-driven university within the city of Philadelphia,” one graduate student was quoted as saying in the report.

Participants also highlighted Temple’s focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, its alumni network in the Northeast and students’ commitment to pursuing a degree as attributes that await the next president, according to the report.

Temple’s academic quality was also emphasized, recently highlighted by a placement of 89th in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Colleges” ranking. The ranking is the highest in Temple’s history and the first time the university has been included in the top 100.

TCG’s report also used quantitative data to exhibit opportunities and challenges, which can often both apply to one issue, the research firm wrote.

“We bring [opportunities and challenges] together because of this overlap and we separate them from assets because opportunities and challenges require different strategies to reap the benefits, while assets already exist as a benefit, albeit one that should be protected and enhanced,” the report read.


The report’s qualitative data overwhelmingly showed safety as a top priority at Temple as the next president assumes the position. 

“Temple is a big place, but a small community,” one member of faculty leadership said, quoted by the report. “The bottom line is how safety affects enrollment, nothing else matters if it continues to decline. Friends, family, neighbors say ‘I would never send my child to Temple.’ This is priority one.”

TCG found that 73 percent of respondents thought “addressing concerns about the safety of the campus environment” is the university’s most significant challenge, while 40 percent said working with the community to address safety concerns was the greatest opportunity.

The university has grappled with a number of safety concerns around Main Campus in recent years, including the fatal shooting of a Temple student in November 2021 near Main Campus and the death of Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald on Feb. 18, the first death of an on-duty officer in the history of the Temple University Police Department.

The emphasis on safety in the report aligned with conversations Temple Student Government had with students, said TSG President Rohan Khadka, a junior secondary education-social studies major.

“Campus Safety has always remained one of our biggest concerns, whether it’s living off campus, whether it’s doing a job in the city,” Khadka said. “The implications of going to a city school has always been one of the concerns of students and I think it’s a great bridge to one of the other biggest concerns of the students working with our community members better to address campus safety.”

Khadka is the only student on the 17-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee, which will make a recommendation for the university’s next leader to the Board of Trustees.

Among 11 choices, or the option to list something else, “expanding and improving relationships with the local community and neighbors” was denoted by students as the second highest priority opportunity at the university while faculty, staff and alumni ranked it as eighth, sixth and ninth, respectively.


“Securing a sustainable financial future” was picked by both alumni and staff as the top university priority opportunity among the 11 choices. 

While finance can be connected to safety, enrollment and revenue growth, the next president will also have to handle state subsidies, private philanthropy, inflationary costs and other trends in the market, according to the report.

“It’s really important that this person has business acumen and understands the financial landscape, including budget management, data analytics, fundraising,” one staff member said, quoted by the report. “Revenues right now are pretty contingent on enrollment.”

Other quoted respondents want to see a president who could focus on addressing declining enrollment, philanthropy, fundraising, growing the university’s endowment and making college more affordable.


The most important training, education or background to respondents was a “commitment to teaching, research and service.” Second on the list was a demonstrated advocacy for higher education, followed by prior experience in key higher education leadership, the report found.

TCG found that listening session attendees held strong opinions on whether the next president should have a “traditional” academia career path, including the completion of a terminal degree, the highest degree available in an academic discipline. While there was no consensus, a majority of faculty that spoke found these qualities to be essential, the report read.

However, some survey respondents and other contributors found those qualities to be less important.

“Prior experience in [relevant] higher education leadership positions,” one survey respondent wrote, cited by the report. “TU is not Stanford, Harvard, UPenn, nor does it need to be. Find us someone who understands the unique value of a huge, mostly public, gritty, very urban university, and who does not see the need to make us into something else entirely.”

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