Associate Vice President for Facilities Services & Campus Planning
for a university

Helbling & Associates was retained by a private research institution in the Mid-Atlantic with campuses covering more than 1,600 acres to secure an Associate Vice President for Facilities Services & Campus Planning. Our client was looking for an individual who could smoothly transition into the position, drive the university’s initiatives (such as sustainability and energy conservation strategies) and act as a strategic partner with leadership.

Partnering with the three major stakeholders in the process, Helbling secured a professional with nearly 30 years of diverse facilities management and engineering experience. The successful candidate quickly took charge, leading some of the university's most highly prioritized initiatives (including developing a ten-year capital construction improvement plan and introducing a facilities cost and financing model).

The institution is impressed by the new hire’s ideas, and despite the fact that our client’s leadership has largely been in flux since the individual’s arrival, he has continuously received support for his proposals because of their effectiveness.

Our client is a private research institution in the Mid-Atlantic that covers more than 1,600 acres. The institution engaged us to conduct a search for an Associate Vice President for Facilities Services & Campus Planning due to the impending retirement of their existing AVP, who had been with the institution for 30 years. This search occurred at an exciting time, as the institution was finalizing a new 10-year master plan to be executed in order to ensure continued growth and advancement on campus. The client was seeking an AVP who would have the capabilities and dedication to continue the university’s rich heritage of being one of the most selective, highly-ranked institutions with a set of physical assets that effectively support the academic, residential and co-curricular programmatic needs.

Reporting directly to the Vice President for Finance & Administration, the AVP has responsibility for the ever-changing physical needs of more than four million square feet of space for academic, research and co-curricular initiatives. Responsibilities include planning, renovation, capital construction, utilities and engineering, grounds, building maintenance, facility services, community interaction/communication, and all financial aspects of the department.

The individual’s primary duties would include:

  • Acting as a strategic partner with the academic and administrative leadership in defining and articulating a facilities vision that meets the goals of the research, teaching and co-curricular programs, and communicating that vision to the Board and other relevant external entities.
  • Supervising the development and implementation of energy conservation strategies and other sustainability initiatives as appropriate to move the university forward in the implementation of its Climate Commitment.
  • Developing and maintaining a thorough understanding of the academic and research units within the institution and infusing the facilities planning process with this knowledge.
By forming strong relationships with the three primary stakeholders in the process (which included the Hiring Manager, the Human Resources lead, and the Search Committee Chair), we successfully conducted a national search for candidates. In guiding the search process, we assisted our client in determining which attributes were most important in candidates (i.e., experience in facilities management vs. planning vs. construction; experience regarding public speaking and leadership skills; etc.). In addition to identifying candidates who had at least ten years of executive financial or operational experience in a similar-sized campus setting, it was imperative that the candidates have a proven ability to work closely with and collaborate with the surrounding community members to preserve the integrity of the campus. Because the new AVP was replacing a retiring individual, it was also crucial that all candidates had the leadership and personality traits to create a smooth transition into the role and to be able to quickly gain the trust of existing staff.

Our client selected a professional with over 27 years of experience in all aspects of facilities management, engineering and services, making him uniquely qualified for the role. His previous positions include Chief Facilities Officer for a major university where he supervised a staff of 900, with 10 direct reports. Additionally, he has overseen large master plans, capital construction projects, and facilities operations with both in-house talent and contract employees. He has experience in various organizational levels and has led development of eight strategic plans in previous positions. The candidate is also a retired commanding officer in the United States Navy with the strong leadership and team building skills our client sought.

Since his hire, the candidate has been very well received by the University’s leadership, bringing a new energy to the department and driving a number of critical initiatives:

  1. Developed a $250M ten-year capital construction improvement plan. This was key to the university as they have never had a formalized master plan in place before. The plan outlines necessary actions needed to achieve the university’s end goal to remain a top research institution.
  2. Introduced a cost and financing model to the institution. The model was borrowed from the placed professional’s extensive experience running large-scale base operations in the Navy, and he successfully implemented it into the university setting. The model projects financial costs for the University’s building assets and the costs to maintain and run those facilities over time (or a life cycle analysis). The model will help the university to determine, when there is a need, if it would be more financially sound to build new facilities, lease facilities, or maintain and add on to existing ones. According to the individual, this will be the first university to use this model. This accomplishment is a powerful example of how the right candidate can take knowledge learned outside of an institutional setting (in this case, the military) and apply it in an institutional environment.
  3. Kick-started the university’s sustainability initiative.  In accordance with the institution’s strategic implementation of its Climate Commitment, the professional quickly doubled the team members within the sustainability group. He elevated a sustainability officer to a director level, and hired another individual below the director. Also, the facilities division has published a sustainability plan for the first time.
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Partnering with the three major stakeholders in the process, Helbling secured a professional with nearly 30 years of diverse facilities management and engineering experience. The successful candidate quickly took charge, leading some of the university's most highly prioritized initiatives, including developing a ten-year capital construction improvement plan and introducing a facilities cost and financing model.
Wes Miller, Managing Director - Southeast

Learn about Helbling’s search process