Presidential Search

With Simmons President Helen Drinan's term coming to an end in June 2020, Simmons University announced in April 2019 the start of the search for Simmons Ninth President. This page provides information on the search process, the leadership profile, search committee, search firm and frequently asked questions.

Search Process

While the Board of Trustees holds the ultimate responsibility for hiring a Simmons president, it recognizes and values the critical importance of key stakeholder participation in the presidential search process and sought their input around the future of Simmons, current institutional needs, and candidate qualifications. The critical role of key stakeholders was reflected in the diverse membership of the Search Committee, which was charged with presenting the Board with a recommended slate of the best-qualified candidates for their consideration.

Search Firm Selection

After vetting several national search firms, Simmons retained Isaacson, Miller (IM). With offices in Boston, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, IM has the largest higher education executive search practice in the U.S. and has placed some of the most respected and successful presidents in the country's leading colleges and universities. Our IM team – all Simmons alumnae - was led by the firm’s president Vivian Brocard and Rebecca Swartz, partner, with senior associate Karen McPhedran. The team has extensive presidential search experience. Recent IM presidential searches include Wellesley College, Oberlin College & Conservatory, Union College, Mills College, Spelman College, Roger Williams University, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges, among many others.

Search Committee​

Selecting committee members was a thoughtful, deliberative process. The Board was eager to reflect in the search committee representatives from all aspects of our community — colleagues who brought a variety of relevant professional, cultural and personal experience to the table.  Also, in keeping with the new protocols Simmons has adopted for senior searches, we included alumna and student representation on the committee, in addition to the trustees who served.


Headshot of Regina Pisa

Regina Pisa (Chair of Search Committee)
Trustee Membership: Chair, Board of Trustees
Professional: Chairman Emeritus, Goodwin Procter

Lauren Brisky headshot

Lauren Brisky '73
Trustee Membership: Emeriti and former Chair, Board of Trustees
Professional: Retired, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Chief Financial Officer, Vanderbilt University

Headshot of Jane Buyers

Jane Buyers '81
Trustee Membership: Chair of Executive Development and Compensation Committee, Audit Committee, Executive Committee
Professional: Co-Founder and Facilitator, IDEALS@WORK

Headshot of Agenia Clark

Agenia Clark P'16
Trustee Membership: Trusteeship & Governance Committee, Executive Development and Compensation Committee
Professional: President/CEO, Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee

Headshot of Dwight Crane

Dwight Crane
Trustee Membership: Chair of Trustee and Governance Committee, Investment Committee, Executive Committee
Professional: Professor of Business Administration Emeritus, Harvard Business School

Headshot of Tiffany Dufu

Tiffany Dufu '19HD
Trustee Membership: Advancement Committee, Educational Stewardship Committee
Professional: Founder and CEO, The Cru

Trustee Eckert headshot

Jennifer Eckert '08MSW
Trustee Membership: Vice Chair of Executive Committee, Trusteeship & Governance Committee, Educational Stewardship Committee
Professional: Founder, Boston Post Adoptions Resources

Headshot of Winston Tabb

Winston Tabb '72MS 
Trustee Membership: Chair of Educational Stewardship Committee, Chair of Faculty Review Committee, Executive Committee, Trusteeship & Governance Committee
Professional: Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums, John Hopkins University


Dean Stephanie Berzin photograph

Stephanie Berzin
College of Social Sciences, Policy, and Practice

Catherine Paden photo

Catherine Paden
Associate Provost and Dean
Undergraduate Program

Faculty Members

Diane Grossman photo

Diane Raymond Grossman
Rising Chair, Faculty Senate
Professor, Philosophy and Women's and Gender Studies
Chair, Women's and Gender Studies and Director, Honors

Geoff Turner headshot

Geoffrey Turner
Current Chair, Faculty Senate
Associate Professor of Psychology

Saher Selod photo

Saher Selod
Associate Professor of Sociology, School of Social Work


Professional Staff and Community Members

Headshot of Debra Pérez

Debra Perez
Senior Vice President of Organizational Culture, Inclusion, and Equity

Headshot of Kathy Rogers

Kathy Rogers
Senior Vice President & General Counsel
Secretary to the Board of Trustees

Headshot of Amy White

Amy White '81
Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement
Former Board of Trustee member

Benaree (Bennie) Wiley headshot

Benaree (Bennie) Wiley
Principal, The Wiley Group
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees, Howard University


Enna Jimenez headshot

Enna Jimenez ‘91
Head of QA, Senior Director Quality Assurance, Civil Identity Business Unit, IDEMIA
President, Association of Latino Professionals for America, ALPFA, Boston Chapter
Former Board of Trustee member and Former President of Alumnae Association Executive Board


Alexus Cruz headshot

Lex Cruz
UG Class of 2020
Pre-med major
President of the Undergraduate Student Government Association


Find answers and general information quickly through our frequently asked questions.

Who was on the search committee? 

Please see the complete list of committee members.

How were the search committee members chosen?

Selecting committee members was a thoughtful, deliberative process. The Board was eager to reflect in the search committee representatives from all aspects of our community — colleagues who brought a variety of relevant professional, cultural and personal experience to the table.  Also, in keeping with the new protocols Simmons has adopted for senior searches, we included alumna and student representation on the committee, in addition to the trustees who served.

What role did students, faculty, staff, and alumnae/i play in the process?

Choosing the next leader for Simmons University was ultimately the Board’s responsibility, but it was a responsibility shared with the Simmons community. With the help of Isaacson, Miller, the nationally-respected executive search firm who supported this search, we gathered input from students, faculty, staff and alumnae/i — both online and on campus — who participated in one of the dozens of listening sessions Isaacson, Miller hosted or who shared input via the survey tool on our website.

All this feedback helped to inform the role profile of the new president. Isaacson, Miller spent last summer developing a candidate pool for the presidential search committee to review and assess. Qualified candidates were then interviewed by the committee over the fall/winter months. Our goal was to have our final selection announced early in the second semester, and we are thrilled to keep to that schedule.

How did Simmons ensure a diverse candidate pool?

As part of our 2022 strategy, we’ve incorporated inclusive excellence as a standard practice in recruitment and retention to ensure a diverse pool of candidates. Our executive search partner shared our commitment to inclusive excellence in hiring and we were explicit in our expectations for broad diversity in our candidate pool. A member of the Office of Organizational Culture, Inclusion and Equity also served as a member of the search committee. In addition, we enlisted outside experts to ensure every step in the process—from writing the job description, to developing candidate pools, to reviewing CVs, to conducting interviews and selecting finalists—reflected non-biased, inclusive excellence.

Was the decision unanimous?

Yes, the vote was unanimous.

Why did you choose this particular candidate?

President-elect Wooten is a talented, thoughtful and experienced leader with a passion for higher education. Her vision, strategic thinking and collaborative nature make her ideally suited to lead Simmons in this next critical period. Throughout her career, Dr. Wooten has assumed a number of leadership positions. Most recently, she’s been an important figure at Cornell University, serving as the David J. Nolan Dean and Professor of Management and Organizations at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. 

What are some of the candidate’s key accomplishments and areas of expertise?

President-elect Wooten's expertise lies in positive organizing routines, workforce diversity, strategic human resource management, and crisis leadership. She has a strong track record of organizational development and has authored or co-authored 28 scholarly articles, including a 2016 research briefing, "Creating an organization of leaders: A positively deviant approach," which appeared in the journal Progress in Pediatrics. Dr Wooten is also co-author of the book, Leading Under Pressure: From Surviving to Thriving Before, During and After a Crisis (2010). Other research has been published in journals such as Academy of Management Journal, American Behavioral Scientist, Human Resource Management, and Organizational Dynamics.

When will the community get to meet President-elect Wooten?

President-elect Wooten is planning to come to Boston a few times before her term begins on July 1, 2020. We’re planning to have a community meeting in the spring that will also be live streamed. 

What will be the priorities of Simmons with a new president on board?

Simmons is on an important trajectory of transformation which includes a number of expectations to which the current leadership and the Board are committed.  Priorities such as the One Simmons initiative, student retention, various cost-savings measures, among others, will continue. The new president will lead the next phase of our strategic plan as we close in on meeting our goal of Strategy 2022.

Did President-elect Wooten get briefed on the current state of Simmons’s operations?

President-elect Wooten has met with President Drinan, the full Board of Trustees, the academic Deans, and senior staff. She received a full review of our financial plans and our One Simmons plan. She is fully aware of the opportunities and challenges facing the university. 

What is President Drinan doing next?

President Drinan has served for 12 years as Simmons President, a length of time that is about double than the average college president. She will remain an active and vocal proponent of higher education and we expect she will have many opportunities to share her expertise and wisdom.