Thursday, September 24, 2009

A President and Partner for Youngstown

A few weeks back I attended an employee forum at YSU. It was regarding the qualities that YSU is looking for as they begin the search for a new president, since President Sweet will be retiring at the end of this year.

I was struck that many of the comments in the forum were primarily about local, institutional issues--administrative communication, technological infrastructure, etc. Now, don't get me wrong, those things are of critical importance in order for the institution to function smoothly--in my previous life I performed mission reviews of postsecondary institutions, and it is obvious if basic systems are not functioning then aspirational goals are for naught--however, I was struck by the relative silence, in that forum at least, regarding the importance of a new leaders vision for YSU's place and role in our community, and beyond.

As an employee new to the institution, my thoughts regarding the qualities desirable in a new YSU president are not based on the current officeholder, but rather on my experience working at the state level in higher education. That, and my hopes for Youngstown and the region in its "becoming."

The most innovative leaders I've seen in higher education are those that:
  • seek to partner with communities and use their leverage to mutually benefit the university and the community;
  • recognize that institutions are not just competing with each other--they have to work together to be leaders on a larger, global stage than historically experienced, but, at the same time,
  • seek to differentiate their institution in such a way as to attract both attention and resources;
  • strongly and directly link excellence in student learning to positive economic development--equip graduates to provide the intellectual and creative capital necessary to fuel our economic futures; and
  • include both the institutional and larger community in this vision.

What are the Youngstown community's hopes for the future vision and role of the university? Is this a dialogue already underway?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

When You've Got No Village

So, my family and I moved to Youngstown three weeks ago now. Everyone keeps asking if we've gotten unpacked yet, to which I reply, "Yes, well, you know, we're getting there...", while I think in the back of my head about the towers of boxes that we're living amongst, the fact that every time I try to get dressed for work I can only find half an outfit, the searching through four boxes just to find a tupperware...

The truth is, we moved to a new city where we know almost no one, both start jobs the very next week, and, while I'm grateful for the progressive school my daughter will attend, I can't send her for more than an hour and a half a day at most for the first two weeks! When my daughter is home, my first goal is to give her the attention she needs to feel like there is some normalcy in her life; the second is unpacking her room (and somewhere in a distant third is my other job that I stupidly didn't give up when I moved here--damn being so responsible!)--never mind the rest of the house, or my husband for that matter.

That being said, our colleagues are unfailingly kind and we've already had a family come to the rescue when work scheduling was completely inflexible, so perhaps we've found the first members of our village. The anticipation of finding a community (in which I've looked forward to for so long after being so nomadic) makes the difficulty of knowing few people to turn to when struggling to get settled all the more tiring.

Thank god for the light at the end of the tunnel!