View from the river: team insight

Meet Dr Eugenia Gonzalez, Consultant and Partner in our Higher Education Practice

Past, Present and Future – how you came to be at Saxton Bampfylde

Like many, I came into executive search by fortunate accident. I had done a PhD in Victorian Culture in the United States and, having enjoyed a (wonderful) short stint as a Lecturer here in the UK, was looking for a more stable alternative path to academia. In search I found a way of continuing to work with a sector I feel at home in and am passionate about. I came to Saxton Bampfylde after eight years at another search firm and will all too soon be approaching my second year anniversary, which I find extraordinary!


What is your role and focus in the higher education practice group?

I have always enjoyed working across the whole university and higher education ecosystem. I think it’s so important to have a comprehensive understanding of the various roles, functions, and people that, together, make universities tick, I have found it invaluable to have that breadth of perspective. That said, I have always found it especially rewarding to work with clients on roles that resonate with my own academic interests and experience – the search for the LSE’s Director of Research and Enterprise, where finding candidates who understood the research challenges distinctive to SHAPE subjects was key, comes to mind as a recent example. As well as new roles and initiatives where there is an opportunity to help shape the brief and work in close partnership with the client.


What in your view makes a good leader in higher education?

I think now, more than ever, there is a need for HE leaders to be receptive and able to lead through and deliver change. We need leaders that – very simply put – people can believe in and be willing to follow. Leaders need to be attentive to the external environment, of course, and creative in seeking out new pathways and solutions, but without this quality, it’s very easy for the best strategic plans to remain just that. The most impressive leaders I have come across exude a sense of authenticity in the way they communicate and relate to their colleagues, and are able to hold ambitious ideas alongside a sense of pragmaticism and understanding of how challenges are felt ‘on the ground.’


What about the higher education sector interests you most?

Despite the many challenges the sector faces, I still think universities are some of the most exciting places on earth. Working with organisations whose business it is to make discoveries about the world we live in, disseminate knowledge, and come into contact with, frequently, but not always, young people at really formative and critical time in their lives, is such a privilege. I think universities should hold a real pride of place in the UK, and their value – both reputational and economic – is woefully underestimated. Despite these difficulties, the sector continues to attract some of the best and most curious minds – even with tough competition – which makes me hopeful for the future.


You have lived (and worked) internationally– has this influenced your perspective on executive search?

I had a very international upbringing because of my father’s profession, and the exposure to different cultures and languages has certainly shaped who I am and the perspective I bring to work. Having worked in both the American and UK academic systems has also been helpful, as I have a sense of what makes the UK sector distinctive but also an awareness that there are other models with their own advantages and disadvantages. It is always valuable to be mindful, in my view, that there are other ways of doing things.


What are your passions outside of work?

I really love walking. Before we had our children my husband and I would walk for hours along the Thames almost every weekend. With small children, opportunities for this are rather more limited, but we are working on their stamina! I’m also a huge fan of tennis – both watching and playing – whenever I can fit it in.


With the choice – pop on a podcast or bury your nose in a book? Please share any good recommendations!

Both. I love a podcast while cooking or walking but it’s no replacement for reading. Some classics over the years have been Freakonomics and 99% Invisible, and I really enjoyed Esther Perel’s How’s Work?, which always felt a little bit like eavesdropping, but I thought gave fascinating insight into the personal ‘baggage’ that people can bring to work. Current favourites include The Rest Is Politics and The Wonkhe Show for a bit of HE sector discussion.

My reading habits are also quite broad, the last few books I’ve read are Neurotribes, about the history of autism, The Authority Gap, about the persistent differences in how women are perceived in relation to authority, and The Exhibitionist, about a dysfunctional family steeped in the world of art. The books I have returned to over and over again over the years, however, usually take me back to my academic roots –Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.


Get in touch with Dr Eugenia Gonzalez



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RICS senior governance appointments

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RNLI appoints new leader to take charity into third century of lifesaving

Erika Lewis appointed CEO at Connected Places Catapult

Alex Frazer Announced as the New Head of Bancroft’s

Sue Baillie appointed as Woldingham’s new Head

Royal Hospital School appoints new Head

The University of Manchester appoints Professor Duncan Ivison as next President & Vice-Chancellor

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Quadrant Chambers appoints Sarah Longden as new COO

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Rachel Kent made Financial Regulators Complaints Commissioner

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Indhu Rubasingham appointed as Director of the National Theatre

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Professor Tom Crick joins DCMS as Chief Scientific Adviser

Norwich Theatre appoints Tom Sleigh as new Chair

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English Heritage announces New Blue Plaques Panel Members

Paul Ridd named Director of Edinburgh International Film Festival

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra announces Lord Tony Hall as new Chair

Team Consulting appoints new CEO

UK Civil Aviation Authority Appoints Rob Bishton as the new Chief Executive

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English Heritage appoints Dr Nick Merriman as its new Chief Executive

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Samori Gambrah announced as Chair for New Art Exchange

Chris Auty appointed as new Director at London Film School

Cherian Mathews appointed as new Chief Executive of HelpAge International

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A Healthy Perspective Podcast – David Hare MBE, CEO of Independent Healthcare Providers Network

Dr Paul Thompson appointed as British Council Chair

Appointment of new CEO for GLF Schools

Bas Javid appointed new Director General of Immigration Enforcement

New CEO appointed for the UK’s national synchrotron, Diamond Light Source

University of Nottingham appoints new Pro-Vice-Chancellor for its Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

Béatrice Butsana-Sita appointed new CEO of the British Red Cross

Michael Plaut OBE announced as new Chair of Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

Will Gompertz announced as the Soane’s new Director

Who’s Moving in Healthcare – June-July 2023

Dr Ghazwa Alwani-Starr appointed as new COO at University of Bath

PA Housing announces five new non-executive members to join board

Storyhouse appoints new CEO: Annabel Turpin

Claire Wood Hill announced as new CEO of The National Brain Appeal

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James Williams announced as the next Director of the Royal College of Music

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SCIS appoints new Chief Executive

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A Healthy Perspective Podcast – Nick Costa, UK CEO at Ramsay Healthcare

Challenging Crisis: Learning lessons in Leadership – Charlotte Hill OBE, CEO at The Felix Project

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The Air Ambulance Service appoints new Chief Executive

New Director of Tate Modern appointed

BBC News announces new senior appointments

Hosting Panorama’s Global Researcher Conference 2023

A Healthy Perspective Podcast – James Tugendhat, CEO at HC-One

George Watson’s College announces New Principal for August 2024

Iain Conn to chair EngineeringUK

Eunomia appoints sustainability change-maker as inaugural CEO

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra appoints new CEO

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New Director appointed at The Foundling Museum

Jesse Jones announced as new Artistic Director at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate

New Headteacher announced for Aylesbury High School

St Aloysius’ College appoints Patrick Doyle as Head of the College

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The anatomy of effective regulation leadership – Jonathan Morgan on The Regulation Podcast

Department for Business and Trade appoints new Chief Scientific Adviser

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Octavia announces the appointment of Stephen Jack as new Board Chair

Making Lemonade: regulatory leadership during challenging times

St John’s School appoints new Head