University of Central Oklahoma Presidential Search

The Board of Regents of the Regional University System of Oklahoma invites inquiries, nominations, and applications in its nationwide search for the 21st president of the University of Central Oklahoma. The search, which will be a completely confidential process, was launched in response to the decision by President Don Betz to retire in June of 2019 following eight years of exemplary service to the University and the state of Oklahoma. The new president will be expected to take office July 1, 2019.

Responsibilities of the Position

Reporting to a nine-member Board of Regents appointed by the governor of Oklahoma, the president serves as the University’s chief executive officer and is responsible for the strategic leadership and effective administration of the institution. The president articulates the University’s vision, mission, and values with internal and external stakeholders; fosters a climate of academic excellence, creativity, inclusion, and aspiration; supports and enhances the institution’s programs, services, and operations; builds upon the existing traditions, distinctiveness, and strengths of the University; embraces new opportunities to define the attributes of a great metropolitan university; exercises leadership for the University’s budget and fundraising efforts; and works with the regents, senior leadership team, deans, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, elected officials, and the broader community to ensure that the mission of the University is carried out and that the highest quality of education is afforded to all of its students.

Assisting the president in managing the affairs of the institution are eight senior officers who are direct reports: the provost, the vice president for operations, the vice president for development, the vice president for university communications, the vice president for public affairs, the vice president for finance, the vice president for student affairs, and the chief information officer.

This is an exceptional opportunity for a talented and seasoned leader to provide visionary, strategic, and operational leadership for Oklahoma’s only metropolitan university. Some of the specific responsibilities and duties the new president will have are listed below.

  • Collaborate with the Board of Regents to implement strategic initiatives and achieve established goals.

  • Assure the ongoing financial strength and viability of the University through prudent management of available resources and development of additional financial opportunities.

  • Drive and strengthen a community-wide culture of philanthropy, donor stewardship, and alumni engagement.

  • Lead and inspire the University’s senior leadership team.

  • Be an involved and active participant in community affairs and economic development; work with community leaders on initiatives that will improve the relationship between UCO, the city of Edmond, the Oklahoma City metro region, and the state.

  • Develop strategic enrollment management plans and other related initiatives impacting student recruitment, retention, and graduation.

  • Champion and expand diversity and inclusion in the student body, faculty, and staff; foster an environment in which the campus community has the knowledge, skills, and desire to embrace and support students, faculty, and staff representing diverse backgrounds and identities.

  • Maintain a visible presence on campus, regularly interacting with students, faculty, and staff.

  • Enhance an existing culture of teamwork and empowerment, recognizing the value of individuals, offices, and departments on campus in helping the University achieve its goals of enriching the student experience.

  • Serve as the institution’s chief advocate and spokesperson, promoting UCO and its interests to all audiences, including the state legislature and the public at large.

  • Cultivate and nurture an environment that attracts and retains high-caliber faculty and staff by leading a work environment in which participation, respect, transparency, and excellence are fostered.

  • Be a relentless advocate of excellence in all that UCO undertakes and be a tireless supporter of students, faculty, and staff in their efforts to serve the campus and local communities as well as bring positive attention to the University.

  • Encourage and nurture collaborative and interdisciplinary relationships among the University’s colleges as well as with other institutions and community partners.

  • Represent the University of Central Oklahoma to all of its local, state, national, and international audiences, including representing the University in national education and research associations and other associations.

Characteristics of the Successful Candidate

The University of Central Oklahoma seeks in its new president a leader with strategic vision, a collegial leadership style, and the energy and integrity to inspire the University community to new levels of excellence. Candidates for the presidency are expected to have a record of successful executive-level experience in the administration of a large and complex organization; strong financial acumen and a track record of effectively managing human, fiscal, and capital resources; an ability to advocate for the University’s mission; a proven ability to build relationships and work effectively with the full range of internal and external constituents; and a working knowledge of fundraising and advancement in a complex public institution.

The ideal candidate will be a leader with an earned doctorate and senior-level experience within public higher education, a talent and enthusiasm for fundraising, experience working with a governing board, an appreciation for shared governance and a record of collaborative leadership and consultation across all sectors of an academic institution, and a demonstrated ability to build and sustain a diverse and inclusive organization.

Additional capabilities and attributes identified as important to University of Central Oklahoma stakeholders include:

  • a strategic thinker and planner, with a proven record of synchronizing vision, capability, capacity, and resources

  • a visionary leader and administrator with a clear understanding of, and experience with, financial planning including budget management, forecasting, cost control, and resource allocation in a landscape of shrinking state support against increasing institutional need

  • a leader who understands the role of advancement/fundraising and its relationship to the operational and aspirational aspects of a complex, public university

  • a deep respect for and understanding of the academic enterprise and a commitment to leveraging strengths and building academic excellence

  • exceptional communication and listening skills

  • an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to push the envelope for positive change

  • demonstrated experience in assessing, retaining, attracting, and developing superior talent in the leadership team and of being comfortable delegating distributed leadership

  • the ability to engage and inspire alumni to be active participants in the life of the University

  • the ability to envision the potential of the university, balanced by an administrative skill set and the drive necessary to see ideas transformed into action with measurable results

  • demonstrated self-confidence, maturity, and sound judgment befitting a chief executive officer of a complex higher education enterprise;

  • an open, transparent, and highly collaborative leadership style

  • an enthusiastic and effective ambassador for UCO who will engage internal and external communities with clarity, sincerity, and strong consensus-building skills

  • the ability to draw on the exceptional expertise and innovation that exists across the institution in advancing effective practices and avoiding potential pitfalls

  • an appreciation for the role and mission of the state’s only metropolitan university

  • a commitment to recognize excellence and celebrate the contributions of individuals across the campus

  • an ability to work effectively with constituents of varied backgrounds and positions of responsibility both internal to the University and external across diverse communities

  • a politically savvy administrator who is respectful of institutional culture and varied stakeholder perspectives

  • capacity to embrace the academic mission of the University and be purposeful about innovation and continuous improvement

  • an ability to develop programs and partnerships that reflect best practices in the way educational institutions operate and educate students

  • an ability to provide leadership for diverse, high-quality, and innovative academic and workforce development programs offered in multiple modalities, formats, and locations; and

  • a deep understanding of shared governance and how shared governance supports an institution in planning, innovation, strategy, and vision.

History of the Position

Dr. Don Betz, UCO’s 20th president, is retiring in June 2019, after leading the institution for eight years. He succeeded Dr. W. Roger Webb who led the University from 1997 until his retirement in 2011. Prior to Webb, eighteen men previously served as UCO’s permanent president, and two served as its interim or acting president pending the appointment of a new permanent president.

President Don Betz has provided progressive leadership for the University since 2011, advancing the institution during a time of significantly reduced appropriations from the state. He and his executive team worked diligently to preserve core operations, maintain faculty and staff positions, and fund strategic initiatives through disciplined spending and increased revenue from tuition and fees, government grants, and philanthropy. UCO stakeholders applaud President Betz for maintaining the University and making strides in key areas without cutting personnel and essential services. In recognition of his significant contributions to UCO and higher education, the RUSO Board of Regents approved the naming of the University’s newest building in his honor.


Likely Opportunities, Priorities, and Measures of Success

UCO is seeking a strategic, visionary leader to be its 21st president. It is expected that the next president will be a wise and astute administrator, a strong and effective communicator who will understand the role and current opportunities and challenges of a metropolitan university. The president will model and encourage transparent decision-making and demonstrate a strong commitment to students and their success.

While a fixed leadership agenda has not been set for the new president, there is consensus among stakeholders that he or she will need to address the following priorities, among others:

Galvanize the institution around a vision for its future

Changes in presidential leadership offer colleges and universities a unique opportunity to review, assess, and invite conversations about plans for the future. The new president will be responsible for engaging the entirety of the UCO community in considering its future path and crafting a new strategic plan. This effort will be guided by the successes of the current strategic plan, Vision 2020, which was adopted in 2013 and will sunset early in the new president’s tenure. Among the foremost priorities that will drive the University’s thinking will be its deep and abiding commitment to students, educational opportunity, and affordability; its role as Oklahoma’s only metropolitan university; and its desire to increase its engagement with and impact on the local, state, national, and global communities it serves.

Sustain a student-centered campus that transforms lives

UCO is committed to transformative education. The new president will be student-centered and dedicated to cultivating a campus environment, educational opportunities, and student life initiatives that support optimal learning and development. The president will be actively engaged in campus life and demonstrate a genuine commitment to students and their success, including first-generation college students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Over the past few years the University has increased tuition and fees to offset cuts in state funding. Students have articulated their concern that the institution is no longer the affordable option it once was, and campus leaders have observed that UCO’s relatively high student attrition rate is directly related to the institution’s cost of education. The new president must address this issue and find ways to ensure that a UCO education remains within the reach of students and that UCO’s tuition and fees remain competitive with other public institutions in the state.


Promote academic excellence and innovation

UCO has evolved over the past few decades and is now a thriving metropolitan university with an impressive range of undergraduate and graduate programs. The next president will support the University’s commitment to engaged learning and excellence in all dimensions of the educational experience. Working collaboratively with the provost and the faculty, the next president will make decisions regarding future investments in academic innovation. Building upon UCO’s strengths, there are opportunities to leverage disciplines that have strong enrollments, to bolster programs that need enhancement, to significantly increase the University’s online presence, and to design and offer additional programs to meet the needs of nontraditional students as well as the evolving workforce development needs of the Oklahoma City metro area.

Optimize the University’s enrollment and execute a strategy for growth including increased student persistence to graduation

The next president must have a firm understanding of enrollment management issues and lead the institution in undertaking strategies to stem recent enrollment declines and increase student retention and degree completion. While UCO has been successful in attracting new first-time and transfer students, about one-third of all first-time students leave the University between their first and second year, and only four in ten students graduate within six years. With the assistance of consultants from Ruffalo Noel Levitz, the University has initiated a strategic enrollment management initiative to ensure sustainable enrollment levels and provide the resources to enhance the University’s fiscal health. Given UCO’s challenges and opportunities in this area, the next president must be innovative and entrepreneurial in his or her approach to enrollment management.


Build and steward the University’s resources

The president is responsible for the management of a $243 million budget, which includes an E&G budget of $187 million. The University’s endowment is approximately $23 million. The president must have strong fiscal management skills and ability to quickly grasp the economic realities of the state and their impact on the University. In light of declining state appropriations for public higher education and the desire to keep tuition increases at a minimum, the president will be expected to generate new philanthropic revenue streams that will be critical to maintaining the quality of UCO’s academic and co-curricular programs, the strength of its faculty and staff, and the attractiveness of its facilities. The president will achieve this goal by dedicating appropriate time to fundraising; increasing support from individuals, corporations and private foundations; and strengthening relationships with alumni. It is also expected that planning for a new $60-$70 million capital campaign will begin shortly after the new president assumes office, which will provide him or her an ideal platform to advocate for institutional priorities including scholarship support for students.

Champion a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus community

UCO is a highly diverse community and has firmly stated its commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive community. The next president will devise additional strategies for increasing and promoting diversity in its many forms and across all University constituency groups. The president will foster and ensure a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, faculty, and staff. The new president will have a fundamental understanding of student demographics and a desire to address the unique needs and concerns of all students including those from underrepresented groups. This is especially important in light of the changing demographics in the Oklahoma City metro area and the fact that students of color now constitute half of the student population in the Oklahoma City public schools.

Engage with and establish a strong presence in the Oklahoma metro community

UCO helps shape the Oklahoma metro area and its future through student internships, research, workforce development efforts, campus programs, and community events. Every year UCO alumni join the community’s educated and highly skilled workforce. The new president will be an active and visible presence across the region and the state, serving as the “face” of the institution and personifying its values. The president must know and understand the community and interact actively with leaders in the K-12 school system, the community colleges, cultural and social organizations, and the corporate community. The president must be a consummate relationship builder who identifies and nurtures opportunities for mutual engagement—a visible and active participant in conversations that address issues of importance to the Oklahoma metro community.


Additional Information:

The University of Central Oklahoma has retained Spelman Johnson to assist with this search. Review of applications will continue until the position is filled, but complete applications received by November 9, 2018 will be assured full consideration. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Confidential inquiries and nominations should be directed to Jim Norfleet at or Ellen Heffernan at Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.

Visit the University of Central Oklahoma website at

The University of Central Oklahoma is committed to an inclusive educational and employment environment that provides equal opportunity and access to all qualified persons. The University has established policies regarding fair and equal employment and educational practices without discrimination or harassment because of actual or perceived race, creed, color, religion, alienage or national origin, genetic information, ancestry, citizenship status, age, disability or handicap, gender, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state, or local law.



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