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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

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The GW Hatchet

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Trachtenberg accepts headhunting job

After more than two decades as a university administrator, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is joining the private sector to help other institutions find qualified presidents, administrators and professors.

GW’s former president accepted a job earlier this month as a top executive at Korn/Ferry International, one of the nation’s largest headhunting firms. He will serve as chairman of the North American education practice, providing advice and guidance to schools looking for talented new hires.

“I’m sort of an elder statesmen,” Trachtenberg said. “Someone who’s been a university president who might be able to provide them with some insights that come from being on the job.”

Korn/Ferry, which is based in Los Angeles, was founded in 1969 as a service to help companies find new, experienced executives. The education sector is a growing part of the industry, said Michael Distefano, Korn/Ferry’s vice president for global marketing.

GW used a similar firm, Academic Search, Inc. during its search for a new president in 2006.

Trachtenberg officially ended his presidency at GW on Aug. 1 and is now a professor of public service. He said his new title at Korn/Ferry will not take away from his teaching duties.

“(The new position) is an adjunct to my GW appointment,” he said, adding that he will probably only work half days for the firm during the academic year.

Stephanie Cohen, senior manager for marketing and communications at Korn/Ferry, said that the position is paid and part-time. Trachtenberg said he turned down a full-time position.

Trachtenberg’s right-hand man at GW, Gerry Kauvar, will join him at Korn/Ferry and help him coordinate between his two positions.

“When (Trachtenberg) let me know he intended to step out of the presidency, he suggested that if I were agreeable we would figure out ways to continue working together,” Kauvar wrote in an e-mail.

Kauvar and Trachtenberg have been friends for 30 years, and have spent the past five years as co-workers.

In just several weeks of post-presidency life, Trachtenberg said he has received more than 20 job offers, most from law firms and education consulting firms.

“When you step out of a job like the president of GW, life turns into trying to get a drink out of a fire hose,” Trachtenberg said.

Although he will not be conducting a majority of the actual talent searching, Trachtenberg said he would like to use his advisory position to introduce new conversations into the higher education community. One example of this goal is his desire to see more diversity among university presidents – who have traditionally been older white males.

Trachtenberg said he accepted the Korn/Ferry offer to begin moving away from his days as University president.

“I need to transition out – create a new agenda with some off-campus works and distractions – and do things that reflect well on GW,” he said.

Trachtenberg also said he hopes to slim down his affiliations with several non-profits so he can start focusing more attention on fewer companies.

In the meantime, he has finished his latest book – a memoir “with some observations about higher education in America.” It is scheduled to be published by Simon and Schuster this January.

Before joining Boston University as an administrator in 1969, Trachtenberg was an attorney for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Now, as he returns to life outside the education sector, he must confront the new workplace.

Trachtenberg said, “They have provided me with a BlackBerry and they insist I learn how to use it.”

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