When Ohio University President Roderick McDavis took to the stage to announce that he would step down in 2017 after 13 years of leadership, members of the university community had many questions about what would come next.

Though there has been no individual announced as a possible contender, the first phase of the Board of Trustees’ four-phase plan is nearing completion with the formation of a special search team that collectively will be tasked with finding OU’s next president.

"Only 20 times in 212 years has something of this magnitude occurred at Ohio University,” OU Board of Trustees Chair David Wolfort said in a letter to the community. “The search for our 21st president is underway.”

Composed of a board-approved search committee, a consultant and a third-party search firm, the presidential search team will work throughout the upcoming academic year to screen and select candidates for the office of president, which McDavis will officially vacate once his contract expires June 30, 2017.

During the June Board of Trustees meeting, the board announced that the selected firm would be Witt/Kieffer, a Chicago-based executive search firm that specializes in “providing outstanding leadership solutions to organizations committed to improving the quality of life,” according to the the firm’s mission statement.

Partnering with the Board of Trustees, Witt/Kieffer will assist the search committee in scouting possible contenders for the position of McDavis’ successor. The university is paying the firm $150,000 to assist in the search.

“The Board of Trustees and the search committee will provide direction to the search firm in the performance of its responsibilities under the contract,” OU spokesman Dan Pittman said. “The Board of Trustees will make the final decision.”

Witt/Kieffer typically works with health-related organizations and academic institutions. In April, the firm helped select Barry Dunn as the president of South Dakota State University.

Similarly, they have assisted in the selection of the newest executive director for The Common Application and the vice president for University Advancement at Carnegie Mellon University.

In July, the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees selected Witt/Kieffer to assist in the search for the replacement of University President Santa Ono, who announced in June that he will be leaving for the University of British Columbia in the coming year.

The firm, however, does not comment on individual cases.

As part of the first phase of the presidential search process, the Board of Trustees announced the appointment of a 21-member search committee, the composition of which includes board members, professors, deans, students, alumni and community members.

Further disclosed during phase one was the selection of a search consultant, Terry MacTaggart, of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, who specializes in consulting work with higher education leadership. Pittman, however, said MacTaggart will “not have a continuing role” in the search process.

Once phase two of the search begins, the team will perform an institutional analysis, spell out the criteria for the future president and begin the initial screening process for prospective candidates.

During phase three, the search committee will officially make their recommendations to the Board of Trustees, who will invite the finalists to campus. During these campus visits, the university plans to hold open forums in which members of the university community will get their first glimpse of OU’s future president.

In the final phase of the search process, it will be up to the Board of Trustees to make the ultimate decision in hiring the new president and beginning the transition process.