Multiple facilities executives
for University of Massachusetts Amherst

The University of Massachusetts Amherst retained Helbling to conduct three executive searches simultaneously: Director of Design & Construction Management, Director of Transportation Services, and Director of Physical Plant. To perform the searches efficiently, Helbling formed a team of three search consultants, with one being the lead consultant who acted as the point of contact for the university. With intense collaboration between our firm and the university, we secured outstanding professionals who have the knowledge and experience necessary to succeed in their roles and within the university's highly political system.

Director of Design & Construction Management
Director of Transportation Services
Director of Physical Plant

After becoming a pre-approved vendor with the University of Massachusetts System through an RFP process, the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) retained Helbling to conduct three executive searches concurrently. The Director of Physical Plant and the Director of Transportation Services roles were open due to planned retirements, and the Director of Design & Construction Management Division was open after an unexpected departure of their long-time director the prior year.   

The university’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities & Campus Planning (AVC), whom we worked with closely on these assignments, intentionally waited to perform a search to fill the Design & Construction position so that all three searches could be conducted simultaneously. Her goal of doing so was to transition the new directors during the same period for continuity and efficiency. While she was the hiring manager for all of the positions, we were asked to work directly with separate search committees and search chairs for each respective search. We developed regional and national recruiting campaigns for all of the assignments, and were responsible for the evaluation of both internal and external candidates.

A large state institution, UMass sought candidates who had performed in similar positions within campus environments comparable in physical scopes. They needed skilled managers and leaders who could spearhead the transition of large departments from the previous directors who had been with the university for decades. They were also seeking new directors who could thrive in a “do more with less” environment and bring innovative processes and procedures to create efficiencies because, as a state institution, they have to be cautious with their financial resources.

Throughout the search processes, UMass had specific requirements that had to be carefully adhered to, including:

  • The development of specific advertising plans for each role, which included demonstration of outreach to minority and diversified candidates. This advertising plan was developed by our internal team and was presented to UMass’s Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action department for approval. The university has detailed requirements for the wording within the ads, the timing of the placement of the ads, and our recruitment activities. We worked closely with UMass to ensure that all rules and regulations were followed.
  • The Helbling team was required to send notices to each applicant who responded to an advertisement, along with a form that he/she could complete and submit confidentially to report demographic information. Our project team was responsible for collecting and summarizing this information so that the institution could appropriately track the data and maintain required records.
  • Communications with the hiring authority, the search chairs, and the other committee members had to be handled in a specified manner so that information related to each search was provided in the approved and appropriate way.

To conduct each assignment smoothly and effectively, and to execute all of them on the same timeline, Helbling created a search structure of three internal team members. Each handled a specific search, and the lead consultant also worked closely with the hiring authority and the search committees to provide oversight and direction of the searches.

To begin recruitment activities, together with the AVC we developed a list of five to 10 key attributes, experiences, and/or skills to use as guidelines for each of the roles in an effort to ensure that we were targeting and striving for the most ideal fits both technically and culturally.

UMass required us to use a broad public marketing campaign to post the positions for open applications using various online, print, and industry-specific venues. Additionally, we leveraged select venues that would give us exposure to female and minority candidates to promote diversity in the candidate pool.

We primarily targeted individuals at the director level within higher educational institutions nationally while also considering potential unconventional options coming from healthcare, corporate, public agency, or pharmaceutical environments. 

Director of Design & Construction Management. The selected professional was an internal candidate who had been serving as the Interim Director of Design & Construction for several months, and had served nine years as the Associate Director of Design & Construction, hired by the previous incumbent. He was chosen for his ability to foster strong relationships with end-users and the campus at-large as they relate to capital construction efforts. The university maintains unique working relationships with various state agencies that play a part in capital funding and project execution, and this individual has more than 15 years of experience working in this highly complicated and political system that would be foreign to external candidates from private universities/colleges or outside of the state system. He is also a Professional Engineer (PE) by training, which provides him with a different perspective and approach to the role.

Director of Transportation Services. The selected candidate had been the Assistant Director of Parking & Transportation Services at a large state institution in Texas. She was selected for her experience managing both parking and transportation operations in a state university that was larger than UMass. She also possesses natural leadership and management capabilities that set her apart from her competition. Prior to accepting the Director position, this individual had built such a strong reputation over 11 years as an Assistant Director that her direct report was one of her main advocates to take the position despite having to face the challenge of replacing her.

Director of Physical Plant. The selected candidate was an internal candidate who had been serving as the Interim Director of Physical Plant for roughly six months. He was the Assistant Director of Utilities for 10 years, having been with the university for more than 15 years. This individual was chosen because of his strong performance in the Interim Director capacity, along with the expansive knowledge of campus facilities and infrastructure that resulted from his tenure, which would allow for a smooth and expeditious transition. Of the three searches, this hiring decision proved to be the most challenging for our client because the final candidates were each highly talented in different ways. Ultimately, the best decision for the institution was to offer the director capacity to the individual who had risen to the occasion for the previous six months.

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A large state institution, UMass sought candidates who had performed in similar positions within campus environments comparable in physical scopes. They needed skilled managers and leaders who could spearhead the transition of large departments from the previous directors who had been with the university for decades. They were also seeking new directors who could thrive in a “do more with less” environment and bring innovative processes and procedures to create efficiencies because, as a state institution, they have to be cautious with their financial resources.
Tom Dunn, Managing Director - Mid-Atlantic
Tom Dunn, Search Consultant

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