President Search

May 8, 2024

Dear Columbia College Chicago Faculty, Staff, and Students,

I am pleased to announce the formal launch of the search for Columbia’s next president, whom we expect to be installed at the beginning of the 2025-26 academic year. I wish to express my gratitude to the members of the Columbia community who have agreed to serve on the presidential search advisory panel, and who are listed below. Per the college’s bylaws, I will have the honor of chairing the panel. The college has retained the Isaacson Miller executive search firm to assist in sourcing and vetting candidates. Isaacson Miller provided the same services at the time of the last presidential vacancy and in several subsequent senior administrator searches.

On behalf of the board, I want to again express our gratitude for Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim’s steadfast and thoughtful leadership of Columbia College Chicago since 2013. Thanks to President Kim, Columbia successfully negotiated its evolution away from open admissions and boosted student services and student achievement. Dr. Kim, a former Chicago Public Schools student himself, rekindled Columbia’s relationship with the city’s public schools, leading to a marked increase in access to a Columbia education for our home-grown students. He has put in place systems, processes, and leaders who have positioned Columbia to successfully negotiate the challenges we currently face. Dr. Kim championed and advanced Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Columbia by opening the curriculum to a far wider array of creative traditions and perspectives. He ushered the subtle but critically important shift from calling ourselves an “arts and media college” to a “college for creatives,” which both better articulates what we offer to prospective students and families and has helped us better frame internal efforts to stay focused on President’s Kim relentless insistence on post-graduation success for our students.

His understanding that our students – especially those who commute – needed a place to gather, relax, study, and collaborate resulted in the construction of the Student Center, where the “Kim lookout” recognizes not just his vision but his financial support for the project. Beyond donating to the college himself, President Kim secured several firsts in fundraising, from the largest gift to the college to the largest gift from an alum. He leaves an indelible mark on the college.

As previously announced, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Jerry Tarrer will serve as interim president effective July 2. Jerry has been an effective inspirational leader at our college. As the father and husband of past Columbia students, Jerry understands the necessity and power of Columbia as an educational institution. He is the right person to help the college make the adjustments necessary to prepare us for future success.

I look forward to working alongside the other search panel members at this critical juncture in Columbia’s history. Our institution has some challenges to tackle, as we know, but this moment also holds hope and opportunity for both our institution and its next president. We have the chance and the obligation to elevate the unique place that Columbia inhabits in our city, in creative industries, and in the lives of young creatives who find their true home here and who, without our college, might not have access to the type of world-class education that we offer.

Our next president must be someone who sees promise where others see problems, and who embraces clearing obstacles in order to usher in profound change for future generations of creatives. To be successful, this seasoned leader will need to demonstrate that they understand the need and the method to retain our essence as an institution so that we continue to empower young people to, as our mission statement so inspirationally puts it, “author the culture of their times” and succeed in driving change and shaping industries.

The presidential advisory search panel will have its inaugural meeting later this month. The panel will be composed of [list updated June 5, 2024]:

We expect that the panel will forward two to four finalists for the Board’s consideration in December, with the goal of extending an offer to the selected leader in January 2025 for a summer 2025 start. Columbia will be marking its 135th anniversary during that time; we cannot think of a better symbol of our enduring contributions as an institution of higher education and a stronger reaffirmation of our commitment to access and success for our students. Together, we will position Columbia for another 135 years of prominence and excellence.

John M. Holmes
Chair, Board of Trustees