USF President Elect Paul Fitzgerald SJ narrow banner
Golden Gate Bridge and St. Ignatius church

Presidential Leadership Profile

The Board of Trustees and Presidential Search Committee invite nominations and applications for the 28th President of the University of San Francisco (USF). The president will have an exceptional opportunity to lead this private Jesuit Catholic university as it continues to distinguish itself as a premier academic institution firmly rooted in Jesuit values and dedicated to educating leaders who will fashion a more just and humane world. The university welcomes both candidates from the Society of Jesus and lay candidates who have a deep understanding of USF’s Jesuit mission and ethos and the ability to inspire and engage others in this mission.

Library entrance seen from aboveThe University of San Francisco is recognized nationally and internationally as a leading Jesuit Catholic, urban university with a global perspective. Established as San Francisco’s first institution of higher education in 1855, the University of San Francisco is deeply embedded in the intellectual, spiritual, and cultural life of one of the most innovative, diverse, and dynamic cities in the world. USF presently serves over 10,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in Arts and Sciences, Education, Law, Management, and Nursing and Health Professions and has 1,033 faculty members, 1,029 staff, and an operating budget of over $385 million.

The next president will succeed Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J., now in his 14th year as president, who has informed the USF Board of Trustees that he will conclude his service at the end of his current contract. Under Fr. Privett’s leadership, the university has significantly enhanced its academic programs; achieved sustained enrollment growth; acquired a downtown campus in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district; transformed the main campus with the addition of several new buildings, including the recently opened John Lo Schiavo, S.J. Center for Science and Innovation; considerably raised its visibility in the San Francisco Bay Area with its “Change the World from Here” campaign; and embraced a meaningful university-wide commitment to social justice. 

As the Chief Executive Officer of the university, the president serves as an advocate and fundraiser for USF and as a thought leader for issues related to the university and its mission, higher education, the San Francisco Bay Area, and society at large. The president joins the university at a time of tremendous opportunity and will be expected to:

  • Embody USF’s mission and core values as a Jesuit Catholic institution
  • Unite the community around a shared vision for academic excellence and distinction
  • Create a financial model for the future that clearly places the academic enterprise at the core
  • Realize the vision of USF as "San Francisco’s University"
  • Define the pathway for success from student enrollment to alumni engagement
  • Lead an ambitious fundraising effort
  • Leverage a powerful and engaged Board of Trustees as partners in success

A complete list of the desired qualifications and characteristics can be found below, which was produced as a result of extensive listening sessions with all of USF’s key stakeholders. All confidential nominations, inquiries, and applications should be directed to the parties listed below.

USF Today

The University of San Francisco distinguishes itself as a diverse, socially responsible learning community of high quality scholarship and academic rigor, sustained by a “faith that does justice.” The university draws from the cultural, intellectual, and economic resources of the San Francisco Bay Area and its location on the Pacific Rim to enrich and strengthen its educational programs.

The university offers over 100 degree programs and more than 70 majors, minors, and concentrations. Academics at USF are driven by a focus on intellectual rigor, innovation, and transformative learning experiences. The university is of the size and breadth to offer excellence in teaching, applied research, and service, and a highly personal experience thanks to its 15:1 student to faculty ratio.

USF’s faculty is diverse, talented, and productive, winning more national awards and grants than at any other time in the university’s history. For example, three faculty scholars won coveted Guggenheim Fellowships in 2011, and USF was among the top 10 research universities in the nation in the number of Fulbright scholars in 2009-10.

The university welcomes a highly diverse student body reflecting San Francisco’s rich multiculturalism. Over 30 percent of the university’s students are first-generation; US News and World Report ranks USF as 11th among national universities for the ethnic range of its student body and 9th in international student enrollment. USF students include military veterans as well as citizens from more than 60 different countries.

USF is frequently recognized for its contribution to the common good. Forbes magazine and The Princeton Review rank USF among the top 25 most entrepreneurial campuses. USF is ranked 117th on the list of national universities in the 2014 US News and World Report and has been on the Corporation for National and Community Service’s President’s Honor Roll six years in a row. Rooted in service, the university is classified as a community engaged institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Furthermore, it is one of five universities in the nation to be honored as a 2012 Higher Education Civic Engagement Award recipient.

In addition to its campus in San Francisco, USF has a long, distinguished history of providing working adults the opportunity to further their education through its branch campuses. These campuses are located in Downtown San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, San Jose, and Pleasanton and offer full services conveniently located nearby students’ homes and workplaces. On-line degree programs are available in a growing number of fields.

The Role of the President

The president is the Chief Executive Officer of the university and, subject to the direction of the Board of Trustees, is responsible for all areas of operation, including student success, management of staff and faculty, investments and budgets, facilities, enrollment, marketing and public relations, alumni relations, and fundraising. The president is an ex-officio member of all standing committees of the Board of Trustees, presides at key university functions, and represents the university before the public.

Key Opportunities and Challenges

The president is responsible for determining and implementing the university’s strategic priorities while responding to the changing higher education environment. The president will be expected to:

Embody USF’s mission and core values as a Jesuit Catholic institution

The president must embrace—and personify—the university’s ethos and values. The president should have an experiential understanding of Jesuit higher education and must be able to clearly and consistently articulate and advance the Jesuit Catholic character of the university. Furthermore, the president must animate the university community to embrace a distinctively Jesuit way of proceeding in advancing its mission.

Unite the community around a shared vision for academic excellence and distinction

The USF community shares the ambition to reach ever greater heights of academic excellence and be more widely recognized as a premier Jesuit Catholic institution. The value of a USF education should be widely understood and celebrated in California and beyond. To achieve these goals in the increasingly competitive higher education environment, it is critical to have a common understanding of what makes a USF education truly distinct and a clear roadmap to further define and differentiate USF in the future. The president must be an innovative thinker who can critically assess the university’s current position and articulate a compelling vision for the future. Along with the Leadership Team, the president will establish a clear set of priorities to achieve this vision, ensuring that decisions are made in a collaborative and transparent way and communicated broadly.

Create a financial model for the future
that clearly places the academic enterprise at the core

Like many private universities today, USF is highly tuition dependent and increasingly concerned about the rising costs of education, coupled with higher expectations for academic quality, access, state-of-the-art facilities, technology adoption, and student services. The university’s long-term viability requires that it be ready to embrace change, respond to new opportunities, create and enhance programs that are striking points of distinction for USF, and successfully navigate economic challenges. The president must be able to think creatively about new educational models and ways to reach students, while always ensuring both that the principles and tenets of a Jesuit education are upheld and that the programs of USF remain accessible and of an exceptionally high quality. The president must be willing to take bold steps and empower the provost, deans, and faculty to experiment and pursue ideas about new sources of revenue, particularly in the professional schools.

Realize the vision of USF as "San Francisco’s University"

The university is uniquely positioned to offer extraordinary educational and life experiences for its students. Its San Francisco location provides a rich and diverse cultural setting from which the university can draw upon and contribute to. San Francisco is a hub for innovation and home to many new and burgeoning industries in high technology, healthcare, biotechnology, as well as finance, education, and not-for-profit organizations. This environment provides students, faculty, and staff incredible opportunities for global engagement and leadership. USF has made remarkable progress in raising its visibility in the San Francisco Bay Area in recent years by offering many high-quality academic programs and through a marketing campaign that highlights the distinct nature of a USF education. However, as the San Francisco market also attracts highly competitive universities from around the world, the president must lead USF to connect in ever more meaningful ways to the San Francisco community. USF students and graduates should be even more highly sought in the job market as interns and employees; the president, deans, and faculty should be increasingly widely recognized as intellectual leaders in their fields; and USF’s success should be a source of pride for the city.

Define the pathway for student success from enrollment to engaged alumni

Student engagement begins even before a student sets foot on campus, continues during the educational process through graduation, and culminates with active and dedicated alumni. Students should be engaged intellectually, spiritually, and socially and given options to explore new interests outside the classroom while being challenged to excel within it. They should have affordable housing options and access to services that enrich the educational experience. As USF serves undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, both full- and part-time, at the Hilltop campus as well as at the branch campuses, the president needs to understand and be attentive to the various needs of students and ensure that all have access to a high-quality educational experience.

Vibrant intercollegiate athletics and recreational sports programs, fine and performing arts, clubs, activities, and social interactions all contribute to a healthy and rich student and alumni experience. The president must be attentive to all aspects of student success and be seen as an active participant in and supporter of activities that contribute to an engaged student body and alumni community.

Today’s reality demands that universities not only provide students access to knowledge, skills, values, and sensitivities, but also provide the connections and opportunities needed to succeed in a chosen profession. Alumni can open doors for students and provide mentorship. Alumni themselves are also looking to the university to help them with career transitions. The president must find ways to promote the creation of connections that enable students to find jobs and alumni to contribute in meaningful ways throughout their careers.

Lead an ambitious fundraising effort

The university’s strategic goals are ambitious and critical to its enduring success. Accomplishing these goals will require the university to extend its capability and effectiveness in raising funds and deepening support from alumni, philanthropists, and San Francisco Bay Area community leaders. Stimulating USF’s philanthropic culture and growing its gift revenues will be an important role for the next president. Endowment growth is critical to making sure that USF remains accessible to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds and ensuring state-of-the-art campuses. The president will be the university’s chief fundraiser and will work to create a team of highly capable leaders, both in the development office and throughout the university, as partners in fundraising efforts.

Leverage a powerful and engaged Board of Trustees as partners in success

The members of the USF Board of Trustees are deeply committed to the future of the university and are generous with their time, talent, energy, ideas, and resources. The president must engage this board and individual trustees on the most pressing issues facing USF and higher education today, including academic excellence, university reputation, enrollment, and rankings. The president must work with the board to recruit the most capable alumni, influential members of the San Francisco community, Jesuits, and national experts to serve as trustees.


Qualifications and Characteristics

The university recognizes that the qualities, experience, and qualifications sought are extraordinary and that no one person can live up to all of them equally. However, USF seeks a person who most closely possesses these qualities to lead as the new president. Candidates should have all or most of the following:

  • A deep understanding of the university’s Jesuit mission and ethos and the ability to inspire and engage others in this mission;
  • A proven commitment to and understanding of the value of academic excellence in both teaching and scholarship and experience in supporting such excellence;
  • A record of personal and visible leadership in seeking philanthropic support. This would include enhancing and leveraging internal and external fundraising resources to build gift support for endowment, operations, and capital projects;
  • A genuine commitment to diversity in all its forms and an appreciation for diversity of perspectives, experiences and traditions, including the further strategic development of USF’s global initiatives;
  • An ability to cultivate and maintain a strong relationship with the Jesuit community at the university, especially with its rector/superior, the local Church and the larger Jesuit order and its works, including the superior general of the order and the local provincial, and other Jesuit colleges and universities, especially in the United States;
  • Exceptionally strong interpersonal and relationship-building skills and the ability to galvanize stakeholders, who have different motivations and interests and are spread out geographically, around a strategic vision;
  • A charismatic and genuine communication style and ability to connect with a variety of audiences as the spokesperson for USF. This includes the ability to create meaningful dialogue around important issues and to lead in times of crisis;
  • Proven, successful experience in the executive leadership of a values-based higher education institution, including involving varied and diverse constituencies (faculty, staff, students, alumni) in a common pursuit;
  • A sound grasp of complex financial models and an ability to build a sustainable model of affordable higher education that considers best practices but also encourages innovation and experimentation in areas such as financial incentives, curricular flexibility, enrollment management, and delivery methods;
  • A history of developing leaders, managers, and administrators, delegating to them, and holding them accountable;
  • All the traits of great leadership, including personal integrity, honesty, intelligence, a commitment to excellence, outstanding judgment, energy, creativity, decisiveness, courage of conviction, diplomacy, tolerance for ambiguity, the ability to inspire others, and a sense of humor;
  • An appreciation of the importance and promise of technology applications in teaching, communicating, collaborating, and administrating; an understanding of the risks and opportunities associated with these applications and of how to utilize them to support and enhance the university’s defining strengths;
  • An advanced degree, with an earned terminal degree.

Contact Information

Review of confidential nominations and applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. Please direct all inquiries or nominations and applications, including a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, and list of professional references (with full contact information) to:

Julie Filizetti, Cathy R. Daniels, and Sabrina Singh
Isaacson, Miller

1000 Sansome Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94111-1347

Phone: (415) 655-4900 | Email: usfpresidentsearch@imsearch.com

USF is an equal opportunity employer dedicated to affirmative action and to excellence through diversity.