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?

1 comment:

  1. I think many of the faculty, employees and students at YSU are tired of the president focusing so much time and energy on the role of YSU in the community, and not enough time and energy on solving the internal problems which make YSU a less than desirable place to work and study. There are some big problems that will not be solved by renaming street, creating linkages with downtown or other such activities.