Presidential Search

Fitchburg State University is conducting a national search for its 12th president.
Drone shot of main quadrangle October 2023

A Message from the Board of Trustees

President Lapidus recently informed the campus that he would be retiring at the end of the 2023-24 academic year. We thank him for his distinguished service to Fitchburg State’s students, faculty, staff, and community. His leadership has helped to put the university in a strong position to attract top talent to this professional opportunity. All of us know this is a special place, and we are committed to finding the right leader to continue its advancement.

To that end, and  in accordance with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education's guidelines for presidential searches, the Board of Trustees has hired the professional search firm WittKieffer to help us cast a wide net to recruit prospective candidates. The board has also appointed a Presidential Search Committee that includes representation from across all campus populations. This group will play a key role in screening the candidates put forward by the search firm for this important position, and will ultimately create a list of finalists who will take part in public forums on campus.

Our goal is to select a new president in time for them to be on campus before the departure of Dr. Lapidus in June.

This page will be updated throughout the search process, and additional information will be shared with the campus community as this important work continues.   

C. Deborah Phillips, Chair
Fitchburg State University Board of Trustees

Presidential Profile (PDF)

Presidential Search Updates

Good afternoon Campus Community,

I am writing to share an update related to the Presidential Search. Dr. Mike Godard, a finalist for our Presidential search has officially withdrawn his candidacy. Dr. Godard was scheduled to visit campus on April 29th and 30th, please release these interview dates and times if you were planning on attending his sessions.

We remain very excited to host our candidates for campus visits. Our visits begin with Dr. Karim Ismaili tomorrow, April 10th and 11th, Dr. Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, April 16th and 17th and Dr. Donna Souder Hodge, April 22nd and 23rd. We look forward to the campus communities participation. 

We have prepared evaluations to gather feedback from the community. We would like to gather the feedback from each candidate as soon as possible, please complete the evaluations within 24 hours of the candidates visits, if possible.

Please visit our Presidential website for the interview schedules, candidates materials and evaluation links. We will send an email with the evaluation link for each candidate for convenience during their two day visit.

All members of the community are welcome to participate in the Open Public Forums in addition to their specific sessions that have been scheduled for campus constituents groups.

Open Public Meeting Schedules for all External Constituents, Staff, Faculty, Alumni, and Students

  • Dr. Karim Ismaili - April 11, 2024 - 2pm-3pm, Ellis White Lecture Hall
  • Dr. Mark Overmyer-Velázquez - April 17, 2024 - 1:45p -2:45pm, Ellis White Lecture Hall
  • Dr. Donna Souder Hodge - April 23, 2024, 2:15pm-3:15pm, Ellis White Lecture Hall

Thank you and we look forward to your participation.


Jessica Murdoch
Vice President, Human Resources & Payroll Services

To the Campus Community,

I am pleased to provide an update to the university community on the presidential search process.

I am excited to report that our recruitment efforts and the content in our Presidential Profile generated substantial interest resulting in nearly 80 applicants. Through our executive search firm WittKieffer, the opportunity at Fitchburg State described in the profile was shared nationally to approximately 4,000 individuals seeking nominations and applications. These recruitment efforts were focused on individuals working with regional comprehensive universities and included targeted outreach to professional organizations and publications for women and minority groups in higher education. WittKieffer conducted outreach about the position to approximately 1,000 individuals to gauge interest and spread awareness. These efforts yielded a pool of well-qualified nominees and applicants reflecting diversity in gender, ethnic/racial identification, and other classifications. Following the application deadline, the Search Committee was provided access to candidate materials utilizing a secure web portal to maintain the highest level of confidentiality. The committee was able to evaluate candidates based upon the qualifications and qualities defined as “must have” and “should have” in the presidential profile. The Search Committee deliberated and identified 10 semi-finalist candidates to invite for first round, in-person interviews. The semi-finalist pool continued to reflect diversity in professional experience and identity.

The Presidential Search Committee met with the 10 semi-finalist candidates for in-person interviews over two days. The committee subsequently deliberated to determine the finalist recommendations to the Board of Trustees. I am pleased to announce today that the Search Committee recommends the following individuals, in unranked, alphabetical order who best embody the preferred characteristics of the next president of Fitchburg State:

  • Dr. Michael Godard, Currently serving as Provost at Southeast Missouri State University
  • Dr. Donna Souder Hodge, Currently serving as Vice President of Operations & Advancement at Colorado State University Pueblo
  • Dr. Karim Ismaili, Currently serving as Executive Vice President & Provost at Bridgewater State University
  • Dr. Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, Currently serving as Dean & Chief Administrative Officer at the University of Connecticut Hartford

I invite you to learn more about the finalists by visiting the Presidential Search website, where each candidate’s curriculum vitae has been posted for reference.  

As we now look forward and advance the search to the next phase of the on-campus visits with our finalists, I want to underscore the importance of engagement in these visits by every member of the campus community. We have prepared and posted robust schedules for the candidates to facilitate conversations with a wide swath of campus constituencies.  The candidates will be visiting campus on the following dates:

  • April 10 & 11 - Dr. Karim Ismaili
  • April 16 & 17 – Dr. Mark Overmyer-Velázquez
  • April 22 & 23 – Dr. Donna Souder Hodge
  • April 29 & 30 – Dr. Michael Godard

I strongly encourage you to participate fully by attending the session most applicable to you to hear from the candidates and where there will be opportunities to ask questions. It is important for everyone to participate to learn more about our candidates and be able to provide critical feedback from your perspective. A survey tool has been developed and will be distributed electronically to facilitate the collection of campus feedback. Following the on-campus visits, the results of the survey will be shared with the Board of Trustees to inform their decision-making process on any potential appointment.  

Following the conclusion of the on-campus interviews, the Board of Trustees will meet in mid-May to consider an appointment of our next president. Subsequently, the Board appointment would be considered and ratified by the Board of Higher Education in accordance with DHE guidance on presidential searches.  

At this juncture I want to acknowledge the substantial contributions made by the members of the Search Committee and thank them for their dedicated service on behalf of the Fitchburg State community. Each committee member committed substantial time to this endeavor and worked diligently on our task to find a leader who will work with us all to advance our mission and forge a bright future.  The campus community was well represented by these passionate and conscientious individuals. Please join me in thanking the committee members for their service to the University and contributing in such a meaningful way to its future.

On behalf of the Presidential Search Committee and the Board of Trustees, I thank you for your continued partnership in this important endeavor and look forward to welcoming our finalists to campus in the coming weeks!

Be well,

Eric A. Gregoire ’11, Chairman
Presidential Search Committee

I am pleased to provide an update to the university community on the presidential search process.

At the end of last semester, we embarked as a campus community to draft a sketch of key attributes we are seeking in our next president and provide context about the strengths, opportunities, and challenges for new leadership. We are appreciative of our search partners at WittKieffer for their dedicated assistance in the drafting process and expertise in compiling a comprehensive leadership profile suited to the current labor market. The development of the contents of the profile was a culmination of listening sessions, survey results, and curated feedback from across the university; engaging students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners in conversations about the future leadership needs for our institution. Through this meaningful work, the resulting published presidential profile showcases the strengths of our university and outlines the extraordinary opportunity at Fitchburg State for any prospective candidate. Additionally, the profile established a foundational document for the Search Committee and Board of Trustees to utilize throughout the search process.  We will reference the content of the profile to develop interview questions and guide our work in evaluating candidates. I want to personally thank the members of the Fitchburg State community for your important contributions to this profile.

Immediately following the approval of the presidential profile, WittKieffer began recruiting potential candidates and advertising the opportunity nationwide. The response to date has been positive and generated healthy interest. The team at WittKieffer is now working on direct outreach to identified professionals to gauge interest about the opportunity and encourage applications. There has been a significant number of nominations provided to WittKieffer who have been following up with these individuals to determine next steps. And further nominations are welcome! Please feel free to submit your nominations to the email address dedicated to this search:

We remain optimistic for a robust pool of candidates based on the initial response received and remain focused on ensuring there is a large and diverse pool of well-qualified nominees and applicants. 

There are several key milestones in the search process that will be occurring in the coming weeks which are important to note. First, the preferred deadline for candidate materials to be submitted to WittKieffer is Friday, Feb. 16. We will accept candidate materials following this date, but the Search Committee will begin reviewing materials on the 16th. After evaluating all candidate materials, the Search Committee will meet on Friday, March 1 to narrow the field of candidates and invite identified candidates for in-person first-round interviews conducted with the search committee. The first-round interviews will be conducted in mid-March and will be held in executive session in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws and as a best practice for executive-level search practices in higher education due to the need for confidentiality of candidate materials at this stage.

Once the committee has identified finalists, they will be invited for on-campus interviews. We will make a public announcement at that time to alert all members of the university community and encourage your participation in this critical stage of the search process. The Search Committee has tentatively planned for on-campus interviews to be conducted in late March or early April. 

There is broad recognition that the work undertaken in drafting the presidential profile has sparked lots of conversations about our next president. Even as this phase of the search process is a “quieter” period, I encourage your continued engagement throughout the search process. Continue to have meaningful dialogue about the future of Fitchburg State among your campus colleagues, students, and community partners; provide additional feedback and suggestions to the Search Committee at; and provide nominations and recommendations to WittKieffer at Your continued engagement is vital to the ultimate success of the search process, especially as we look forward to welcoming our finalist candidates to campus for interviews and gathering campus feedback from those visits.

On behalf of the Presidential Search Committee and the Board of Trustees, I thank you for your partnership in this important endeavor and look forward to providing you with future updates as the next steps in the process unfold.

Be well,

Eric A. Gregoire ’11, Chairman
Presidential Search Committee

Presidential Search Committee

The members of the Presidential Search Committee were approved by the Board of Trustees on Thursday, Nov. 16. The committee includes representation from all campus constituencies. 

  • Ms. Lindsay Carpenter-Connors, Director of Career Services and Advising Center, APA Representative
  • Dr. Mario Delci, Associate Commissioner for Research & Planning, Department of Higher Education Representative
  • Ms. Jennifer L. Flanagan ‘04, Director of Regulatory Policy at Vicente LLP, Member, Board of Trustees
  • Mr. Eric Gregoire ‘11, Assistant Director of Budget & Planning, University of Massachusetts, Member, Board of Trustees, Chair of Search Committee
  • Dr. Margaret Hoey, Professor, Biology/Chemistry, MSCA Representative
  • Ms. Carolyn Hughes, Administrative Assistant, Education, AFSCME Representative
  • Ms. Adriana Padilla Salgado, Class of 2026, Student Representative
  • Ms. Deborah Phillips, Founding Partner/Attorney, Nickless, Phillips & O'Connor, Chairman, Board of Trustees
  • Dr. Elisabet Takehana, Professor, English Studies, MSCA Representative
  • Mr. Jonathan Thompson, Superintendent, Fitchburg Public Schools, Community Representative
  • Mr. David Tiernan ‘83, Senior Vice President, National Practice Leader, Clerk, Board of Trustees
  • Mr. Richard Toomey, Associate Vice President, Enrollment Management, Non-Unit Administrator Representative
  • Ms. Allison Turner, Class of 2024, Student Representative
  • Ms. Jessica Murdoch '08, '14, Vice President, Human Resources and Payroll Services, AA/EEO, Liaison to the Board of Trustees, ex officio

Administrative assistance to the search committee will be provided by Ms. Kelli Lundgren, Human Resources Operations Coordinator.

Meeting schedules and agendas will be posted here. Information on past meetings is included below.

Listening Sessions:

Wednesday, Dec. 6

  • APA: 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., Kent Recital Hall
  • AFSCME: 9:45 to 10:45 a.m., Kent Recital Hall
  • Non-Unit Professionals: 11 a.m. to noon, Kent Recital Hall
  • Open general session: 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., Ellis White Lecture Hall
  • MSCA: 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., Ellis White Lecture Hall
  • Student session: 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., Ellis White Lecture Hall/hybrid

Thursday, Dec. 7

  • Board of Trustees: 8:15 to 9:45 a.m., Presidents' Hall
  • Presidential Search Committee Meeting: 10 a.m., Presidents' Hall (Dec. 7 Agenda, Dec. 7 Minutes)

Tuesday, Dec. 12

  • Open general session: 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., fully remote

Friday, Dec. 15

Monday, Jan. 22 

Friday, Feb. 23

Friday, March 1

Tuesday, March 5

Thursday March 14 and Friday March March 15, Agendas (PDF)

  • First round interviews (offsite)

Share Your Input

The Presidential Search Committee welcomes input from the campus community. 

Presidential Search Survey

Comments may also be sent to Nominations and recommendations for the post may be made to

Charge to the Search Committee

The Board of Trustees charges the Presidential Search Committee with conducting a national search for Fitchburg State University's 12th president, and presenting to the Board of Trustees the names, in unranked order, of three to five candidates but in no case less than three for consideration. The Board of Trustees will evaluate the finalists and will appoint the president of the university, subject to the approval of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. 

In identifying candidates for the Board of Trustees to consider, the search committee, working with the executive search firm will:

  • Solicit comments from the university community regarding attributes and qualifications desired in the next president (e.g., through campus forums, meetings);
  • Develop a "Leadership Statement" for review by the Board of Trustees that describes the criteria the committee will use in its search for the future president;
  • Conduct a national search to recruit a large and diverse pool of well-qualified nominees and applicants;
  • Ensure potential candidates receive information about FSU's mission and its schools, centers, institutes, and programs;
  • Screen all nominations and applications based on the characteristics identified;
  • Select and interview those candidates who present the strongest qualifications;
  • Arrange for public campus visits of finalists;
  • Ensure thorough reference and background checks of finalists;
  • Submit to the Board of Trustees the names of five, but in no case less than three candidates in unranked, alphabetical order who best embody the preferred characteristics of the next president of FSU;
  • Provide the Board of Trustees with thoughts and observations describing each of the recommended candidates and the reasons they are being recommended;
  • Maintain strict confidentiality during all points of this process.

All search committee meetings will comply with the Commonwealth’s Open Meeting Law, but until candidates are announced as finalists, all candidate materials will be kept strictly confidential in a restricted, password protected location available only to the committee. 

Only the chair, or the chair's designee, is authorized to speak with the media, or others, on behalf of the search committee. Committee members shall adhere to all university policies and shall act in accordance with state laws and regulations.

The chair and/or vice chair of the search committee will provide updates to the Board of Trustees and the Board of Higher Education during regular meetings of the board or otherwise as agreed to by the chair of the search committee and the chair of the Board of Trustees.

All members of the committee shall sign and adhere to a confidentiality agreement.


This section will address frequently asked questions about Fitchburg State's presidential search.

The Board of Trustees, with the approval of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, is responsible for appointing the university president. The Board of Trustees, under the Board of Higher Education’s Guidelines, has appointed a Presidential Search Committee, including representation from key campus constituencies, and charged it with the responsibility to conduct a national search for the university’s next president. WittKieffer, one of the leading executive search firms in higher education, has been hired to assist in recruitment and screening of candidates. The firm, which conducts more than 200 search assignments for colleges and universities each year, will work closely with the search committee to recruit a highly qualified and diverse candidate pool for the committee's consideration.

To date, the Board of Trustees has notified the Commissioner of Education that it wishes to conduct a presidential search. It has approved a presidential search budget, solicited proposals and interviewed five (5)  executive search firms. As a result, the Board of Trustees hired WittKieffer, one of the leading executive search firms in higher education, and appointed a search committee. Following listening sessions scheduled for this fall with various campus constituencies, a position profile will be developed, and recruitment of candidates will commence during the winter months. 

The search committee, with the assistance of WittKieffer, will screen and evaluate all applications and shall select candidates for interviews. The search committee will then provide the Board of Trustees and the Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education with the applications of the pool of candidates the committee has selected for interviews and either may request further applicants be sought before interviews proceed. The search committee has been charged with recommending three (3) to five (5) finalists who will be invited to visit campus and engage with stakeholders. We anticipate public sessions with the finalists will be held early in the Spring semester.

Yes. The search committee and WittKieffer representatives will conduct listening sessions with university stakeholders to gather input on desired qualifications and qualities of the next president, as well as opportunities and challenges facing the institution (see above). This feedback will be important as the search committee develops the leadership profile for the search, which outlines the expectations for the position.

A survey has also been developed to gather input from the campus community.

Once the search committee has narrowed the pool of candidates (see above) a slate of finalists will be publicly identified, and all will be invited to campus for in-person interviews and forums with the campus community.

The university's Board of Trustees will appoint the next president of Fitchburg State, subject to the approval of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.