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Presidential finalist public forum – Twin Cities campus

Presidential finalist public forum – Twin Cities campus


Good morning. So, this is truly a
momentous time in our University’s history. For only the 17th time since
1851, the University of Minnesota is searching for its next president. At the
start of this search, the search advisory committee visited all five campuses
across the state to gather input from the campus community. Your input has had a tremendous impact on the deliberations and
ultimately brought Provost Gabel to campus today. So now we’re back where it
all started getting input from the university community.
Provost Gabel is traveling to all five campuses before her interview with the
Board of Regents on Friday and this is one of five public forums this week.
After the forum today, please provide your input to the Board of Regents on
the presidential search website. There are cards at the entrance of the theater.
Please take one with you. It lists the website where you can submit
feedback. Before I introduce our presidential finalists, I’ll explain the
format for today’s forum. Provost Gabel will make a few remarks and then we’ll
turn it over to a question-and-answer. session. If you’d like to ask a question,
please write your question on the note card and get it to one of the staff in
the audience. If you didn’t grab a card on your way in, just raise your hand and
someone will bring one to you. So now it’s my pleasure to introduce our
finalist for the position of the University of Minnesota’s 17th president
Joan T.A. Gabel. Provost Gabel currently serves as the executive vice president
for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina, a position
she’s held since 2015. She was previously the Dean of the University of Missouri’s
Trulaske College of Business. And prior to that she held faculty and
administrative positions at Florida State University and Georgia State
University. Provost Gabel earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from
Haverford College in Pennsylvania and her juris doctorate from the University
of Georgia. She and her husband Gary have three children: A daughter who
lives and works in Seattle, a son who is a junior in college, and a son who is a
junior in high school. Please join me in welcoming Provost Joan Gabel. [applause] Good morning, everybody. Thank you so much for being here. I hope
you know how exciting it is for someone like me to show up and have all of you
sitting here looking back at me. What that says about this campus and this
community is incredibly exciting to me and I really look forward to answering
your questions so I’m going to keep my own remarks pretty short because I want
to use this time as effectively as possible to learn from you and help you
learn from me or about me to the extent that you want to. But what I will say as
we get started today is, first of all, I have to thank the Board of Regents and
the search committee and everyone who came to a listening session, provided
anonymous feedback, or otherwise engaged in the process because I can tell you
that it led to an incredibly professional interesting informative
process and it’s why I’m here and so I’m very grateful for the hard work of
everyone who led to this point. And we also have to thank all of the staff who
behind-the-scenes make something like this happen. This is a big production and
they’re amazing ambassadors and representatives of the University and
I’m very grateful to them for all the work that they’ve done so that all of
these kinds of events run smoothly and we have this kind of opportunity to talk.
But with that said I want to start by saying that I’ve been in higher
education for the better part of my adult life and it has changed a lot
during that period of time and as I look around the room and I see community
members, students, faculty staff, administrators, those of us who’ve been
doing this for a while really are seeing palpable change and what it means to be
part of this really noble enterprise of education and discovery and in community
engagement. And some of those changes are resulting in pressure that not all of us
like or enjoy that doesn’t necessarily make the work feel the same way that it
used to. But the universities that will come out of this ahead, the universities
that will emerge better from this time of transition that we find ourselves in,
are universities that have a deep investment in discovery that understand
what students need in the classroom and beyond the classroom, that understand
what it means to serve their state while they impact the world. And this
university knows how to do that. I’ve never seen a university better
positioned to be the kind of university that recognizes legacy and is ready for
what the future holds in a positive way with a contribution that we’ll be
talking about in the next 170 years with your – I don’t know – 34th
president of the university by that time. I want to stop there and open
the floor to questions and hear what it is that you would like to talk about so
I’ll invite Amy who was on the search committee. Very grateful for her
service in that regard and we’ll get started. We already have
some questions that were submitted and I’ll start with one that that
really emerged from one of the main themes that came out of our listening
sessions prior to creating the position profile and so forth. And that was that
the next leader of the of the University of Minnesota needs to really make the
case for higher education. The value of higher education is being questioned
nationally. How would you respond to that? Well it’s it’s an ongoing conversation.
You see this in all corners of the country. You see it in the state where I
live now. And you see it across constituencies where you may not
necessarily expect it because it is an investment to engage with the University
as a faculty member, as a student, as a partner in the community. And it is our
responsibility to make sure that we tell that story well. And it’s a change
culturally for those of us who work in higher education to talk about what we
do beyond our peers. We’re very comfortable describing our research to
each other. We’re very comfortable sharing our expertise with our students
and, depending on the kind of work that we do, we’re very comfortable working with
a specific community partner. But talking beyond that in the past has felt like
bragging. And that is not comfortable for most of us. But the fact is we do do
amazing things for the communities that we serve and those communities are right
here and they extend around the world. So of course we prepare students for lives
well lived. To be really positive fulfilled members of society who can ask
hard questions and expect answers and have fulfilling careers in whatever way
that they want to make those contributions. We are capable and
currently are and can improve as a beacon for what it means to be welcoming
and inclusive. Create a sense of belonging for everyone within the
community we do discover new ways of doing, thinking, providing, curing… I mean I
don’t even know how long I could make that list without leaving something
important out but the list is long and valuable and impactful. And we are a
driver for economic development. The resources that are invested in the
University yield for the state, for all of us in the state and beyond. And we
need to remind people of that, we need to be prepared to describe that in the
specific classes that we offer, the programs that we offer, the research that
we do and the way in which we serve the state through our Extension offices
across all the counties, through our campuses across the system and of course
right here in the Twin Cities. And so I think that this is the the new approach
that university presidents need to have. In addition to facilitating and
stewarding a well-run institution that does all of those things in research,
teaching, and service, that they are prepared to talk to various stakeholders
and constituencies about what’s going on, be transparent, communicate, be prepared
to take hard questions. I suspect there are a few of them coming. Respond to
those questions in a way that provides information or the redirect to the
person who has the information. And to be able to talk about the overall value.
Because we know – because we’re invested – that this is obviously an incredibly worthy enterprise that we’ve partnered with
that we are a part of that we devote our lives to. But we need to make sure that
other people know that too Alright, thank you. The second question
it came in and this also is really in alignment with the things that we heard
during the listening sessions this process began. And it made it
into the profile in a very prominent way. And it’s the question about diversity.
A recent Star Tribune article on you highlighted your commitment to diversity
in students as well as faculty and staff. And so I’d like to hear more about your
beliefs and what you’ve done to correct inequities. So I would consider this – and
this may be a slightly overused term so forgive me – but I would consider this one
of the grand challenges of society in general and specifically for university
campuses. Which is ‘how do we lead on what it means to be welcoming, inclusive,
create a sense of belonging?’ And why should it be us? and I think the ‘why’ is
easier to answer because we are the ones with the best ability to steward what
happens next across a variety of points of reference.
And so if we want to think ahead about the value of appreciating multiple
perspectives, the ideas of how dignity and respect actually lead to better
discovery, better instruction, how the recognition of what has happened
historically is iterative and can inform the future across a state like this,
across every state in the country and around the world, this plays to our
strengths. We are thinkers, we do like to discover, we like to prepare ways to have
robust conversations. And that is something that we can do really well. So
we can and should lead this conversation. But then it also comes back to the fact
that we are an enterprise that’s operating every day. So who’s coming here?
Who’s working here? Are they getting their needs met? Is their voice
represented and heard in a way that’s meaningful and has impact. And so we’ve
tried to take what is really a grand issue and break it down into component
parts so that we could start to see where the gaps really are rather than
just feeling the sense that there are gaps. And act on those in short order
while making plans for long-term improvement. So things like student
composition of course and ensuring that there are really strong pipelines into
various communities so that the student body is representative of a population of
the state, that the faculty and staff are representative of the population of the
state. We are not there yet, where I am now, but we’ve made
discernible progress by being purposeful and intentional and creating programs
that are likely to yield success. With the faculty both in their composition
and in the support for work and discovery, we’ve created a multitude of
layered advisory committees, some with students, some with faculty, some with
staff, some with community members. And then we wanted to make sure we didn’t
have ‘advisory committee fatigue’ where everybody is working busily on
committees and not necessarily seeing outcomes. So we created essentially what
has become an executive council. And one of the things that have has come from
that that I think has made and has the potential in an ongoing way to make the
most difference is: We decided to invest in a chief diversity officer in each
academic unit and in each of the major service units like Student Affairs. And
that is an investment of resources and investment of time. The person who
fulfills this role is at the rank of Associate Dean or equivalent in each
unit and that means that they’re not doing as much teaching and research. And
so that is a conversation and a thought process that every faculty member needs
to have. And then they become subject matter experts for the unique
opportunities and challenges of the disciplines in their unit – the students
in their unit – but they also become an advisory committee for each other. So
this isn’t done in isolation. It becomes a network, it becomes a sharing of best
practices and ideas we have people deployed now to conferences from all
different points of view bringing that information back. And from that has come
a variety of activities that were starting to see yield on
things like campus climate surveys, different types of speaking events but
what topic, why, when, around the class schedules around people’s obligations in
ways that we may not have known or been as sensitive to if we weren’t hearing
from this group that has made this effort so distinctly. There’s a lot more
but in the interest of time I’ll say that that’s really where we’ve started.
Some of the 30,000 foot highlights. But I also want to say that it’s a long
game and this is the kind of thing that if you assume ‘oh I’ve done these two or
three things and now we’re done and everything’s fine.’
That is probably not an advisable strategy. So instead I think it’s very
important to say that everywhere at every institution and at the University
of Minnesota, it’s very important to consider this just woven in. Part of what
the university does, part of what the university in the front of its mind
thinks about in order to continue to improve in this area. One of the questions that just came in was something that… I think this question
is something you or it’s not surprising to you but the question is specifically:
How do we balance all the conflicting goals that we have in academia? So this
person has itemized out lower tuition and competitive salaries, high
quality facilities, research support, maybe even some of the initiatives that
you know investing some of the initiatives you just got done describing.
So how do we balance all of these conflicting goals? Well, operationally that’s the hardest challenge in running the place. Figuring out how to say yes to every good idea knowing that you can’t because
there are not unlimited resources and so that is where strategic planning comes
in. And strategic planning in an inclusive and open way, much like the
process that you saw leading up to where we are now with this search but in an
even broader sense. Because there are ways for universities to do a lot of
things at the same time and we do do a lot of things at the same time. And very
well with a lot of legacy and impact and value. But when you’re looking at
choosing, there needs to be a structure around how you would make that choice
and you need to develop that structure in an inclusive
way, leveraging the fact that there are a lot of really smart people here who
really care a lot about the place, and come at it from different points of view
and really can also often advise you in ways that you would not see on your own
if your nose down at your own desk. Just thinking about what to do with your day. All the different listening sessions we had,
students came to came to them and often expressed the same issue which is: They
want a president who knows what their life is like and what their experience
is like as a student and all the different aspects that they’re
confronted with and dealing with. So, as a president how do you keep your
finger on the pulse of what’s happening with the student body? And I think
thinking about the student body and all the different kinds of student bodies we
have – undergraduate, graduate, professional, etc – at this university. It’s a very good question because I would have answered that question differently about six years ago than I do now. And the reason for that is my
children came to college age I thought I knew what was going on and then I sat in
the room while other people presented to me as a parent… and wow.
So there’s a couple of layers to that of course. One is: It’s good to be humbled
every now and then and be reminded you know you work really hard and you think
you know what you’re doing and it’s good to sometimes be reminded that there’s a
lot more to know all of the time. And the other is that I am a student of my own
children’s experience and there are only a few data points but I’m seeing it
differently now than I did before and I will need to continue because you know
as things go they’re gonna finish and things will continue to change and what
their experience was like may not reflect what happens to the students who
come after them. But what I learned from this added ah-ha moment perspective of
having my own children attend University was that it’s really important to be
boots on the ground with students. So it’s very easy in the role that I’m in
now and in the role of the president to be very in touch with student government
leaders, right? You meet them, they’re on your calendar, and of
course you maintain that kind of face-to-face interaction. And students
are really good at picking who they want to speak for them. But in the process of
becoming a student government leader, that almost becomes like a whole
separate part of that student’s life. And so it’s also important to be visible and
available to students who may not feel comfortable stepping up that way or
maybe attending university in a way where they wouldn’t know the student
government leaders. And so there are different ways to do that. Some of it is
just being visible and being at events and showing up and being open and being
willing to stand there and take a question even if you don’t know the
answer, which is often the case. Or having scheduled events periodically whether
they’re social or they have a thematic conversation. We do this sometimes around
speakers with receptions before after so that we know we can have a deeper dive
conversation about a topic of difficulty and then we have the benefit of subject
matter expertise with the speaker. Or sometimes they’re just fun. But you have
to make moments like that happen and also evoke a sense of approachability.
Because one of the gifts of being in higher education is being in the company
of students. I mean if you’re ever worried about the future, spend a few
minutes with a university student and you will feel better. So that is a
wonderful part of the work. A lot of times, the sciences and
engineering gets a lot of attention. So this next question wants you to speak
to the role of arts in your own life as well as your interests in the role of
arts at the University of Minnesota community and beyond. Well, I give this a lot of thought because I myself was a philosophy major and went to a very small liberal arts college for my undergraduate education and thought it
was an amazing and transformational experience. My own children went to
large public universities and I think they had amazing and transformational
experiences too. So I think you can find this where you are and what speaks to
you as a student. But the ‘this’ that I’m referring to is the idea
that our responsibility is to provide students an education. And education is a
multi-layered thing. Of course skills and competencies and employability.
This is obviously a very big part of the conversation. But that is
critical for the first job, maybe the second job. What is critical to life? What
is critical to being able to be a fulfilled and productive member of
society? What is critical to being able to discern when all of the controversies
or complicated issues arise in society? And we should be providing an education
that improves our student’s ability to function effectively in that kind of
environment. Which I think also makes them more employable by the way even if
it isn’t necessarily in the skills and competencies listed in a job description.
And I say this as a former dean of business who was preparing students and
stewarding programs that were very specific and applied but were anchored
in a core of competencies that included skills like critical thinking,
communication, ability to discern current events, historical context, which were
woven into the curriculum and were assessed as part of the preparedness for
that degree. Next question is around the mental
health crisis that I know is not unique to the University Minnesota and I’m
certain you are seeing this as well at the University of South Carolina. So we
know that we have a challenge among our student population. What have you
seen on this issue at South Carolina and what have you done or did you do to
address student concerns there? This is a national conversation and
unfortunately it’s not unique to anyone and it is the word ‘crisis’ is often
connected and I think with good reason. So there is a lot of very rapid movement
across both academic affairs and student affairs and also with community
partnerships to make sure that our students feel safe in every context of
that word. But talking specifically about mental health… We’ve done a few things
that are sort of you know operational like hiring more counselors changing the
schedule, the time methodology for getting an appointment, making it easier.
Also doing things that enable better and more accessible off-hours support. So just the support network is improving as part of our
response to this. We’re also doing a lot of benchmarking against what other
institutions are doing in terms of peer support, in terms of faculty preparedness
who are, for a very distinct portion of the day, the frontline observers and
partners to the students as they are part of the university community. But of
course most of our faculty are not trained to identify a student who may be
struggling or to know what to do when they learn that that student is
struggling. And I’ve never met a faculty member who wouldn’t have wanted to help.
So the idea of giving the faculty those resources so that they can get the
student to where the help is fundamentally provided has made a pretty
enormous difference. And we work really closely with student government who’ve
taken this up as a platform on behalf of the students for themselves benchmarking
with their peers and across best practices. And we’re working with them to
implement some of the changes that they have suggested as well. There are several questions I’m going to try to combine. We will see how cohesive this becomes. So there are a lot of questions submitted
asking just to know a little bit about you and about your leadership
style, specifically working with all the different groups at a university of
this size. So can you talk a little bit about your leadership and management
style and experience with aspects working with staff in your
office, working with shared governance, with faculty, professional staff, students
etc? Fill us in a bit about your style. I really believe that, because institutions like the University of Minnesota, also like
the University of South Carolina are so large and complex, there’s no way that
one person can know and or even a very small fraction frankly of
everything it takes to make a university successful. And so one of the
things that I have enjoyed the most and have been mentored on by the president
at the University of South Carolina and have learned from him and from other
mentors is: You surround yourself with really smart people who balance each
other well, balance you well, care about the institution and then you let them do
their job. And hopefully you do that in a way where
they feel very open to share their ideas that you can hear pushback in a
welcoming way and improve from it, you laugh every now and then, you make
fun of yourself every now and then so that you don’t take it all too seriously.
And then you pull together a few good ideas and then of course you execute. Now
that’s a whole other conversation probably. And if we have time I would be
happy to address it. But I think that the leadership style, it’s a
very classic interview answer to say “I’m a collaborative leader
who you know reaches out to the community to create buy-in for the
vision.” I mean that’s what I’m going to say. But what I mean by that is that if you you’re never going to meet a university president who has
taught every course in the university, who has researched in every way that the
faculty engage in discovery, who has had the life experience of every student who
comes on to this campus or any of the system campuses, who has represented the
community as an elected official, etc. It doesn’t exist. So how you create
people who fill that and then work together well with each other,
they have the expertise and they have the compatibility… That’s what I consider
leadership. Here’s another combined question from several several several cards. There are several cards that are referring to some
aspect of online education. And, at the University of
Minnesota we are in the middle of really exploring what our future is and
what kinds of investment we see in online programs and how to do that best.
But also just enriching and augmenting the educational experience here to
optimize that. So if you could just talk more sort of somewhat globally about
your thoughts about online education and the role plays in the university programs
augmenting experiences, etc. Oh, I would love to. I taught online for the first time when I was member the faculty in 1998. There are people in here who
weren’t born yet. And we had to code it ourselves and it
was a scrolling chat. Does anybody remember that? I see a few nods in the room. That was not a
particularly effective platform for certainly for engaging students or for
disseminating knowledge in a way that could yield to a really solid
learning outcome. But it was very clear even in those early days that this was
coming and we needed to get ready for it. So fast forward… Things look very very
different now and there are a lot of real opportunities with online
distributed… I think in short order we’re gonna have a next vocabulary for what
this means because online education, if you put any of your
materials up online or if you as students access any materials off of
we’re all ready… Everyone’s already doing something online. It’s not like you hand
everything out in class and write on a chalkboard anymore. It’s just not the way
we do it. So there are some real opportunities with distributed learning,
with leveraging technology, to impart knowledge. There are access points that
you can create that you otherwise can’t have for students in their circumstances
and meeting them where they are. There are ways to use class time and what
we’re calling flipped classrooms so that you can disseminate materials in advance
for students to do in their own time. It gives them flexibility so that they can
engage in leadership opportunities, work, family obligations, whatever are their
interests outside of the classroom. They can be away from campus. There are
incredible opportunities to offer classes that may not fit in normal
business models of minimum enrollments. You can do one-offs and
special subjects in ways that make sense given the way that we run the place. And
you can open up bottlenecks that happen in some of our classes where we see
floods of student interest, pushes of student interest, and sometimes we can’t
move fast enough in faculty hiring to meet that interest in real time. So the
the thoughtful work around distributed learning can be really interesting
opportunistically in terms of content, access, and just efficiency across
the campus. It does require a strategy though. Otherwise it’s
a little bit more organic and then you may not be launching a course
in order to solve one of those problems. And sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes we
launch courses because they’re interesting to the professor who wants
to teach it or interesting to the students who want to take it and then we
discover there’s all these other positive attributes. But I think it is
better for the university, especially one as large and complex as the University
of Minnesota, to do it with a shared governance model where you discuss these
different ways in which online and distributed learning can be beneficial
and you prioritize them and then figure out how to backfill the resources
fiscally, expertise, instructional design, curriculum review by the faculty, student
demand, etc., and then launch. I’m gonna do another aggregate question. Look at all
these cards – it’s really fantastic. There are several cards here that are
dealing in some aspect to what I’ll globally describe as alternative
revenue sources and how to think about entrepreneurism across the state how
alumni and the broader state community might play into some innovative thinking
around that as well. And so many people are asking what are your thoughts about
how do we go after alternative sources of revenue and have that drive some of
the innovation that we’re seeking? I’ll start by saying that I think
revenue is good. Revenue is a good thing. I think that when I became a Dean a few years ago a member of the board of that Business
School who was a very senior executive at a fortune 100 company said “be clever
but never forget who we are.” And it’s one of those pieces of advice that you get
in life that you sort of have on a repeat loop that I hear in my head often
and that he has said to me several times since. In fact, you might not be surprised
to hear, recently. So what does that mean in reply to your question? I
think that it is incumbent upon universities to evolve and we do do
things that are probably monetizable that we have not monetized and I don’t
think there’s anything wrong with exploring those opportunities whether it
be in some of the potential audiences for our curriculum and content that we
haven’t reached before, whether it be in how we partner up to engage in discovery,
whether it be in the kind of work our students do in the classroom, in the
applied projects that they do with partners or beyond the classroom in
their service, whether it be in tech transfer and commercialization, and
probably a very long list of other things that our faculty staff and
students would think of that don’t necessarily occur to me. But I don’t want
alternate revenues to start to creep into core mission and I think that
that’s where the leadership and the shared governance and the open input
cycle comes in. That when you explore alternate revenues, they should be clever
and innovative but also fit who you are so that they don’t become the driver and
pull you away from core mission and then undermine the value of what it means to
be ‘the U’. You know that’s precious and it’s a legacy and it requires nurturing
and stewardship. But I absolutely believe that those two things can coexist. Right now, we’re in the middle of a major presidential initiative to
prevent sexual misconduct. And so there are also several questions here about
asking you to share your thoughts, ideas visions, commitment to responding to and
preventing sexual misconduct at the University of Minnesota. Well, of course I will start by saying that the only acceptable outcome is zero –
meaning zero assaults – and that there’s nothing worse – there are very few
things I can imagine being worse to experience and that it is absolutely
critical that we do everything we can to prevent, support, and handle properly upon.
And that is obviously what has to happen at every university and it has become I
know a very robust conversation here and unfortunately, like several of the other
things we’ve talked about already, is a national conversation. I have done a lot
of observation and study on the approach that the University of Minnesota is
taking in terms of really leveraging the know-how of our public health colleagues
and thinking of this as a public health crisis and using the expertise of that
both scientific area of study and the fact that it’s a very applied field and
in the communities in which we serve, including this community, to try to
really get at what it means to effectively prevent. And I think that
that is well underway and tied in with the kind of support services we were
talking about earlier with mental health, some of the technological services I
know like Callisto and other tools that campuses are using, really strong support
with law enforcement to really emphasize prevention because of course if we’re
successful there then some of the other issues become less acute. So with the
unfortunate recognition that perfect prevention is unlikely and that we’re
not there yet even if we’re ultimately able to achieve
it, then the idea is to make sure that your support structure on campus is
fully aware of the unique attributes and issues of this type of crime, of the
consequences of this type of experience, and works together to make
that the support is absolutely world-class and top-notch. And with the
kind of expertise and know-how we have on this campus, we should be
leading the charge and conversation on that. And then there is at the end of the
day the compliance attribute which many of you know is in real-time changing
right now with new advisory guidance and laws coming out from the Department of
Education federally that create a fair amount of uncertainty about what the
role of the university is. And so getting up to speed – I mean this was just a
couple of weeks ago. So getting up to speed as quickly as possible on what it
means to do the right thing in terms of prevention and support and do the right
thing legally and make sure that they are aligned with each other. But I am
very grateful and glad to see the emphasis on prevention because not every
university that has faced this challenge, this crisis, has focused its attention as
much that way and I think it is the right balance to strike across the
overall effort to eliminate this crisis. Can you talk about your
experience and views on cross-disciplinary collaboration and and
efforts to bring units and ideas together at a large university? Oh I would love to. So I came by some of this naturally because I was a lawyer in the
business school and so if I wasn’t willing to step into someone else’s
party and join their intellectual pursuit then I would have been very
lonely in my scholarship. And you may have already picked up that that
wouldn’t have been how I would have wanted to do it.
So the idea of working across teams was something that was a necessity for me
but in full recognition of the different ways in which we become scholars in
which we engage in our research many of us are really brought up within the
academy to benefit and are incentivized to work alone with students perhaps but
not necessarily cross-disciplinary and that is a long-standing centuries-old tradition in many of the areas of study
and has yielded some pretty interesting outcomes and discovery that are hard to
argue with. But in the modern era the value of looking at things across
multiple perspectives is what employers expect our students to be able to
understand and appreciate when they graduate, it’s what many of the funding
agencies are incentivizing and how they’re supporting research and
scholarship. And I think we’re really starting to see, in varying degrees,
pivots on editorial boards review committees across the mastheads of our
favorite journals in recognizing that looking at questions from a broad point
of view has value and can, in fact, advance the knowledge base. And I suspect
that our students in the room who are doctoral students today who join the
faculty and go up for tenure in what 7-8 9-10 years depending on where you are,
4-5-6 years, will have a clearer set of
expectations from tenure and promotion guidelines that reflect this
cross-disciplinary works so the role now of course is to on campus try to create
those incentives so that you’re moving at the right pace, leading the charge,
finding the strengths seeing where interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary
work might actually yield new strengths and providing enough support so that
then the magic happens between the intellectual interests and compatibility
of the faculty. There are several questions here that I think are
related. Although, people who submitted these questions, if I’m
mischaracterizing this you can submit another one. So, I see it differently. But
there are several questions about the role that higher education universities, but maybe specifically the University of Minnesota, plays in helping
to foster a healthy democracy. And how, as a university community, are we obligated
to engage in some of these difficult conversations. Help us be a
space of debate and dialogue. And climate change as a topic is often inserted in
this question in the cards, So it’s sort of a big question, but I
guess maybe it’s sort of looping back to that first question of why higher
education, what’s the important role. But specifically around it healthy democracy. That’s a really good question and it’s something that the leadership team that
I’m in now talks about a lot and and I would say did not before. But things
changed a lot in 2015 and 2016 on higher education campuses and I think we’ve
seen some really positive outcomes from what was a difficult time, as is often
the case that it’s through some painful moments that you find some of your best
movement forward. But what came to me during those reflections a couple of
years ago and that I think are ongoing today is to really remember what it is
that universities have that are specific to universities. And that is expertise
across a lot of different fields and subject matters and a lot of people
seeking to gain expertise in different ways. So those are specific to the
university environment. And lots of other attributes and assets and wonderful
things too that are shared, but those are really at-the-center university attributes.
And so how do you take full advantage of expertise and the fact that you’re
surrounded by people who are curious and have chosen to be curious? And so what
we’ve really tried to do where I am now and what I want to continue to do in
the future (hopefully here) is I want to create forums – and I’m going to
explain to you in a second what I mean by that – for people to share their
expertise so that they are informed and can explore their own curiosity with
information rather than guessing or forming opinions based on something
other than information. A forum can be a very traditional thing – I mean
we’re having a forum right now and we do lots of things like this. But for example
at South Carolina we have something called the ‘finding common ground’ forums
and they generally involve people sitting in chairs
and someone on a stage. But they do change depending on what it is we’re
trying to evoke. So in the first series, the conversations in 2016 when we
started were very much about voice and what does voice mean. And so we had
people come in who have sometimes in very tumultuous times expressed voice
and sometimes at great personal risk and we had them speak to their expertise or
at faculty who’ve studied those eras in our history or in that history elsewhere
and speak to that with expertise. But then we also did performance art by two
of our dance faculty and national book award winning poet who are on the
faculty to talk about how you might express voice using something other than
words. And there were several others. There are journalists in the room who
can google the ‘finding common ground’ forums on the Provost’s website. But
that’s just an example. I think that what you want to accomplish as a university
is making sure your walls aren’t too high either within your own community
across the different corners or in the community that you serve around the
state, in this city, around the state and in a university like this your community
is also also global. And leveraging the fact that there are people here who know
more about difficult topics, challenging topics, confusing topics, than anyone else.
And that there are ways to share that expertise so that people can form their
opinions with context. And what opinion they form… the
beauty of the university is that is entirely up to you. And I think that
that’s the contribution that we can make in terms of a citizenry democracy – those
broad concepts. Late-breaking question. Let me drink a little water. This question is interesting. When the presidential search was announced here, there was a lot of discussion around non-traditional
candidates, whatever that means and it means something different to everyone it
seems who was saying it. So the question is asking: In what ways do
you think you are somewhat non-traditional and traditional and can
you tell us how how that plays out in your leadership
styles and decision making process. I’m resisting the urge to make rather
obvious right now… [laughter] I’ll start with the most obvious attribute of
what makes me, for this position, non-traditional but I would say perhaps
not non-traditional in general which is that this university has not had a woman
president before. And I think it is delightful that that may change. [applause] Thank you and thank you for the support.
I was the first woman business school dean at the University of Missouri and
there was a little bit of a little smaller headline about that. And I was
the first woman provost at the University of South Carolina. And there was a little headline about that. None of them have been quite as big as the
headlines here, not surprisingly, but what I would say about that it’s a fact and it’s okay to acknowledge that fact. It’s a fact, acknowledge it. But
I think what’s also important is what do you do once you’re in the job? When no
one’s going to care anymore. Five minutes after you start it’s about
the work, right? And whether you’re doing good work and whether you’re bringing
the University from great to greater and fulfilling the mission of the University
and I think that that is the responsibility of any president
regardless of what discrete characteristics they might bring to the
table. Now at the same time I often get the question in different context: ‘What do you think is different about your career because you’re a woman?’
And that one makes me laugh a little bit too because it’s not like I can compare
and contrast my own life experience. But, I have by virtue of some set of life
experiences a really deep and passionate desire for everyone to feel welcome at
the table. I have wanted to feel that way I want everyone to feel that way. I’m not
sure if that’s because of or just is. I know many men who feel that way too.
But in any case I do think that that is an appropriate way to take advantage of
the fact that this is a pivot and an evolution and a symbol of that evolution.
But also that we also now just have to get to work and do good work on behalf
of the University and take everything good about the place and nurture it and
find the next new wonderful things to do and work together to make sure all of
that happens. There are a couple of questions here about the
importance and role of international students and at our University. And if
you could just comment on your perspectives on the role of
international students and thought part of our community. I would love to.
My first administrative appointment was as the interim director of the Institute
for International Business at Georgia State University. I really found my
ability to create multiplier effects the value and fulfillment of administrative
work doing international work for university specifically, but also I do
things like trade missions with the Department of Commerce. Because of the previous administrative posts I’ve had,
work with multinational corporations, and think about what it means to infuse a
sense of cross-cultural competency, etc., that I think that we could take it down
to its most basic component part which is every student who graduates from this
university will be expected to work across boundaries, whether those
boundaries are of people right next door but come from a different point of view
or whether they’re on a cross-cultural cross boundary team sitting on line
behind a computer with people from all corners of the word world. The discovery
is happening everywhere, the customers are everywhere, the problems to be solved
are everywhere, and so how do you prepare students for this type of life? And how
do you as faculty and staff take advantage of this type of life to do
better research, better scholarship, better performance, better curriculum
design, better work in your own classroom? And, in order to do that, you have to have
a lot of different people in the room and you have to have a lot of different
points of view represented. So I think that universities absolutely benefit
from having present international students, international faculty
international staff. I think this is part of how we serve the state right here at
home. I also think that one of the beauties of being in a state that has a
wide statewide reach but also a major metropolitan area with a lot of major
company headquarters located here is that… What happens in this state and I
know this because this has happened in my own family because I have family who
moved here and stayed is that… This state and this city and others in the state
are what our colleagues over in sociology would call “sticky.” Meaning when you here you stay. And this is a growing
community, we have workforce needs in this community, we have capacity for a
very vibrant and fulfilling employment in this community, and I think we should
be meeting those needs and in order to do that effectively, you need to bring
people here and then hope they stick. I think that this is part of the value
proposition of a robust complicated University community. We have a we have a very robust governance program process in this university
across different groups, faculty, staff, students, are all
engaged. So can you just describe some of your experience with shared governance
and specifically mean faculty shared governance but your ideas in
general? I’m smiling at Amy because she asked me the same question during the
interview process in an earlier phase. I’ve worked at universities where the
faculty were unionized and the University where I’m at right now, the
faculty are not unionized but very very active faculty senate. And I was
briefly before I became the director of that institute that I referred to
previously, a faculty senator back in the day and I think that the shared
governance model is how all of the interesting advances that universities
have made, perhaps not in the individual research of the faculty but in every
other way, have happened and that is not to say that it is not occasionally
without frustration on both sides of the conversation because people have
different ideas about how to move forward – I think that’s pretty typical –
but from my experience it’s in that exchange and sometimes in that very
tension where the interesting things happen. And some of that may be because
I’m a lawyer and so tension is something and I know a little bit about. But the idea of of having different points of view but a shared endgame goal
is really something worth investing in and nurturing. And so what I’ve done
specifically – to actually answer your question – is I have what we informally
call with a head of faculty senate and the chair elect of the
faculty senate. At South Carolina we call it the bat-phone.. if you’re good enough to remember
what I mean by that. Anyway we are in regular communication with each other
about a variety of issues. I’ll tell you about one just because I can’t resist
which is that the state the northern part of South Carolina and the southern
part of North Carolina are in a winter weather advisory.
I left the bad weather to come here. [laughter] Reflect on that for a moment. But the
university ended up not having to close but might have had to if there were
severe enough conditions and that’s the kind of decision that we make in real
time in phone calls and group texts and if you can get to each other, depending
on where people are. The last time we had to close for bad weather, the chair of
the faculty senate was in the Czech Republic taking the phone calls at two
o’clock in the morning for him. But we do those sorts of things so that we make
sure when we’re making major decisions, whether they’re urgent or whether we see
them coming, that we do it together. But also we have and exactly the same way as
here a very robust committee structure within the faculty senate and I’m at a
lot of those committee meetings, as are other people from my office. And then
we’re very very open and purposeful about having faculty senators come to
the administrators retreat. We added that recently so that faculty senate could
participate. Student government leaders are invited too – that was not the case
before – so that they can hear from each other both formally when we’re doing
this kind of thing but also in the hallway and as you’re getting lunch and
all the other times when sometimes the magic happens in the relationships are
formed about what’s top of mind for different groups and then that often
informs the agendas for future conversations. And that has worked pretty
well. That’s not to say that we haven’t disagreed on occasion and actually I
think if you never disagree maybe you’re not investing hard enough and some of
the hardest things. But we have found solutions on all of the difficult things
that we face together. Since you were talking about weather… There’s a question here that I’m just
gonna read it as is but I’m not sure how to rephrase it. It says
this will be your first time living and working in Minnesota. And the question is:
How do we know you will “get us”? So tell us about your expectations of being a citizen of the state of resident of
the state of Minnesota. That’s a good question. I don’t know how to tell you “believe me, I’ll get you.” ‘I’ll have to prove that to you over
time’ is the short answer to the question but I will tell you a little bit about
me that I think may ease some of the concern on that. My father worked for
the federal government so we moved every two years. Some of you may have had that
kind of lifestyle too. So while I have never lived here, I do consider myself
highly adaptable as a result of that experience. And one of my favorite things
about having lived that life and having moved a few times as an adult and and
inadvertently also imparting this on my own children… is coming in and
learning and embracing is really fun. And so I want to “get you.” And I’m studying you… and I should probably stop there. So you’re going to be traveling to all
five campuses. You have a big week ahead of you. But this is an odd position
because you’re the Chancellor of this campus, Twin Cities
campus, but the president of the whole system. And how will you balance those
roles and lead in a way that is system focused? Yes. So this is the exact same structure at the University where I am now. At the
previous University where I was Dean it was the other version where there is a
system office with a president and then each campus including the flagship has a
separate chancellor so I’ve seen both. There are pros and cons to both. But this
is the way this system is structured so you know you come in as it is have a
wonderful mentor in the current president of the University of
South Carolina, Harris Pastides. And what I’ve seen him do and then have been able
to participate in as the academic officer is that there are very specific
value contributions that each system campus makes and then the collective
makes a contribution. And the way that you get to the best of that is by
appreciating both and seeing how they fit together. So on each campus of course
their unique curricular components, unique faculty expertise, local economic
drivers, local relationships and partnerships that are that campuses. And
those would exist and have the resulting opportunities and challenges whether
they were part of the system or whether they were a standalone campus. And then
they’re a systemness and what does it mean to then work together and create
what is essentially an executive council of what it means to serve the state
statewide and serve and find the opportunities that a state like this
creates and offers that are unique to it and not something that any other system
would naturally do. There are probably some you know fat parts of the bell
curve that every system is trying to accomplish, but on the tails is where
you would find what’s Minnesota about the University of Minnesota system. And
the best people to identify that are the leadership teams and participants in the
campus system and that is, I think, a really distinct competitive advantage
because the best way in which universities fulfill core mission,
especially land-grant universities that have extension offices and legacy
missions, is of course through the extension office’s themselves and the
local extension officers. But in intellectual pursuits, in instruction
and research that reflects the corners of the state and having both… that’s a
short list and it’s great, it really is. something to be proud of and to nurture. You’ve mentioned now the president of the University of South
Carolina as being an important mentor. And someone has submitted a question
asking what other university presidents do you admire and why? And so can you give us more information about why this
person has been an important mentor for you and if there are other presidents
you’ve looked to for inspiration or guidance? Well of course I think Eric Kaler is a wonderful president and the work that
he’s done here is a very big part of why I want to succeed him so that that goes
without saying. I’m a very big fan of Jere Morehead at
the University of Georgia but I have to be transparent and expressing why not
only do I think he’s a really good president but he was my professor a
while ago when I was a student there and he’s obviously been a
president already for several years. We’ve kind of come up in a way together
with me being able to observe each incremental step in the progress of his
career and what he’s done on behalf of each component of the University that
he’s been responsible for on his journey and what it has really meant to leave something better than you found it in university life across
different levels of the University. Those are the two presidents that I know the
best. And I really think they’re both incredible people and really got what it
meant to create a university community that welcomed people in and what it
pushed out made everyone around it better. And of course President Morehead
is in the middle of doing this. He’s continuing to do this and so I would
list the two of them… And Eric Kaler. Okay I’m just going to read this
question as it is So it says “Hockey? Football? Basketball?” Although I think they’re missing a
lot of other sports. What about volleyball, soccer, swimming? Tell us something
about your view of the student-athlete. Okay, so first of all I saw some
criticism that I might not understand hockey and I want to express how deeply
offended by this observation. So I did grow up in Atlanta but some of you are
old enough to remember the Atlanta Flames before they became the Calgary
Flames. Games that I used to attend when I was a child. And then later
minor-league hockey it was at the time the Gwinnett Gladiators – it’s now the
Atlanta Gladiators – that I used to attend. And then I went to school in Canada for
a year where I was able to re-find my affection for hockey. and attend those games. So I beg your pardon. [laughter] So I just I’m personally a
terrible athlete. I’m a very big fan and I enjoy sports and it’s a little
like music for me. If I enjoy the competition, I’m gonna tap my
toe to whatever rhythm is coming through the radio. Growing up in the
southeast, football is pretty big there. It’s pretty big there, as is
baseball. I didn’t know as much about basketball. There’s professional
basketball and of course there are college teams in Atlanta but it is not
quite the same community driver sport that football and baseball are, although
I went to my high school basketball games and a few college
basketball games. But then I went to the University of Missouri which at the time
was in the Big 12 and was a consistent tournament participant.
One of the staff members in the athletic department there – and he’ll know who he
is if he sees this – sat me down and said “Okay here’s what you need to know about
basketball.” And I’m not gonna tell you what he said –
I know you’re waiting for me to tell you what he said. But I’m sorry but that’s
a longer conversation for another day. But he coached me up on how to be a fan,
to understand how it was part of the front porch of the University athletic
department portfolio and why I would and should enjoy it, which I did and do. So
that all worked out pretty well. But the student athlete, I really want to make
sure we talk about because at the end of the da,y what athletes began as and
has the potential to do and I think does very well here with its moments of
course but on the whole does very well here is create an unbelievable learning
environment for our student-athletes who then contribute a wonderful component of
our community experience and create a front porch of visibility for the
University so that people who may not otherwise talk about discovery,
innovation, instruction, curriculum, are there and can be spoken to, persuaded,
influenced, cajoled, into remembering everything that the university does. The
people who would find us for those contributions will find us anyway but
there’s a whole other group of people who find us by virtue of the platform
and front porch that athletics creates. So is it the most important thing that
the University does? No, but is it an incredible opportunity for the
university when it’s done well? Absolutely yes. And do we want to make
sure that our student-athletes are well instructed, prepared for life
after competition, safe? Yes. And I think that all of those things can
very happily coexist. So you had mentioned earlier how you
go from great to greater and there are some questions that been submitted about
if you could share some of your vision about where you think the University of
Minnesota can go from great to greater and some of our biggest opportunities. Yeah so that’s of course probably the trickiest question that you get at this
phase of the conversation because what I know about the University is we’ve had
several robust conversations that led up to this point. Of course we’re having a
conversation, all of you and I, now but I think that creating a bullet point list
of ‘here are the three things you need to do’ would be hubris because I need to
“get you” as you all asked me about earlier first. And also that needs to be
a shared governance conversation and how you would develop that kind of list. But
here are the categories, broadly speaking, of opportunity that I
see. So this University isn’t coming into this very interesting and challenging
time that we find ourselves in in higher education upside down, if you will. And by that I mean it’s not that the research
enterprise is struggling here. The research enterprise is in the top ten in
the country here. It’s not that students aren’t interested in coming here.
You have an incredible demand of extremely qualified students who want to
come here and it’s not like you don’t have the attention of your state
legislature. It was part of the platform speeches of your incoming
elected officials across the board. And last but certainly not least, it’s not
like you don’t have corporate America here tapping on your shoulder saying
“what’s going on on campus.” So when you look at that basket of attributes and
you think about, the next bullet points aren’t going to be a turnaround,
right? That’s not one of the things that we would be talking about for how we
would rescue ourselves over the next – whatever the reasonable arc –
3-5 5-10 years would be. Which is great and not necessarily the
story that every University is telling right now. But there are things emerging
out of the research enterprise. I see some tremendous potential in the
partnership with Fairview in academic medicine, Academic Health Center. I think
that there are tremendous opportunities to really look at what systemness might
be in terms of meeting different gaps across the state, achievement gaps
inclusion gaps, and what that could mean in terms of instruction and in terms of
research and discovery and service. And I think that there are probably layers of
partnership that could be achieved in individual faculty research or the
cross-disciplinary type of research that we’re seeing more and more of that we
would could tap into more deeply and more robustly and
that would probably yield the next set of bullet points as it’s undergoing. But
what I really look forward to is getting around the table and really learning
what the bullet points might be and then getting going on them. That’s one of the
things that is the most fulfilling about being in a leadership role in a
university is discovering the university and seeing where it has strengths, making
the investments in those strengths, where it can meet some challenges where it can
make its own improvements that then improve the community that it serves. If
that’s not what you want to do, then this probably probably isn’t the job for you.
So that’s I really see that as the next chapter. This is your final question… and it’s a trick question. [laughter] And and then after that I’ll see if you’d like just to give some closing
comments. We just have a few minutes left. And so I’m also not originally from
Minnesota so I would answer this question differently. So this trick question I would answer differently. But this is a
very specific Minnesota question so… “Duck, duck…” What comes next? [laughter] Now I read something somewhere about
this… Can I say ski-u-mah instead? And go Gophers. Or go Bulldogs, etc. So with that if you have any
closing comments we’ll we’ll finish up. Okay so I’ll finish where I
started which is to thank you. I know everyone in here is busy and to stop
your day and inquire and give me an opportunity to share what I see here and
why I think this is such a tremendous opportunity, I’m extremely grateful for.
And I hope this is just the beginning of an ongoing conversation and that all of
us have the chance to talk more more deeply with more specific topics soon.
It’s a very big part of what I see your next president doing. It’s something that
I hope I have the opportunity to do and I’m really honored and humbled to be
able to sit with you today. And this is our first open forum of many.
And so I’m really looking forward to seeing how the whole experience goes
through this week across the state. But I’m just so delighted to start here with
you today and I thank you for your time.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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