Campus officials heading up the search for Western Kentucky University’s next president spent about three hours reviewing candidates with a consulting firm in closed-door talks Friday.

Phillip Bale, a member of WKU’s Board of Regents and chair of the Presidential Search Committee, opened the meeting by giving a brief update of where the search stands. 

“We’re still very much in the discovery phase where applicants are learning more about us as we learn more about them,” he said. “We will be discussing individuals today as that process goes on.” 

Representatives from consulting firm Isaacson, Miller also attended the meeting, including Jeff Kessner, a senior associate with the firm. 

“Over the past few weeks since our last meeting we’ve been focusing our time on, No. 1, continuing our outreach and networking efforts,” Kessner said, adding the firm is continuing to seek new people interested in the position. 

The firm has also been getting to know some candidates better through “in-depth interviews” that are an hour or hour and a half long either in person or through video conferencing, Kessner said. 

Shortly after giving that update, the committee went into closed session at about 11:45 a.m. to discuss candidates. The meeting stretched on until after 3 p.m. 

In an interview before the meeting began, Bale initially said the number of candidates under serious consideration is in the “mid-teens.” He added the process is still open to anyone interested in the job. 

“The large majority of people have a strong background in academia,” he said. 

Within the closed session, Bale said the committee would discuss “individual candidates and get feedback from our consultants as well as discussion of our own impressions from what we have read and learned about them.” 

“I think sometime within the next few weeks we hope to be able to narrow our list to a group of semifinalists,” about 7 or 8 in number, he said. 

Bale said he doesn’t see the semifinalists revealing themselves, but that could be different for finalists. 

“I think we all hope the finalists may all be open to that, but that’s so far down the road I’m not going to venture to guess ... and at that point that will be a board decision.” 

He stressed the committee’s commitment to doing a good job recommending candidates for board approval. 

“What I can say is I think we are all determined to try to find the best person and the best fit that we can for Western Kentucky University,” he said. 

After returning to open session and adjourning the meeting, Bale said in a follow up interview that the number of candidates being considered is “under 10.”

“We are in upper single digits,” he said. 

When a Daily News reporter asked about whether the candidates are mainly from the southeast or scattered across the country, Bale said the candidates come from across the country. When asked about the diversity of the group, Bale said “at least half” represent diverse groups. 

“If you define diversity as people of color and women it’ll be over half,” he said. 

In a follow-up voicemail to the Daily News, Bale said at least one candidate has a history with WKU and that the committee doesn’t view that as a negative.

— Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.