CUP Presidential Candidate Urban Discusses Impact, Engagement, Best Practices for Sustainability

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Dr. David Urban – Dean of Jennings A. Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee – returned to speak at another open forum on Tuesday afternoon sponsored by the Clarion University Presidential Search Committee.

Urban is one of four candidates vying for the open position of Clarion University President.

According to Urban’s curriculum vitae, his education includes a Ph.D. in Business Administration with a Marketing Concentration from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, and his experience ranges from Chair of the Department of Marketing in the School of Business at Virginia Commonwealth University (2008-2009) to his current position as Dean of Jennings A. Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University, a position he has held for the last five years.

In his opening statement, Urban reflected on how he had used “Clarion” as a model to highlight areas of focus in his previous open forum and said he decided to do something similar again using “Eagle” as a model to highlight areas he sees as important to sustainability and growth.

– Economic impact and community engagement: the ability universities have to be generators of economic activity and engagement.
– Access: being accessible to underserved populations.
– Good value: offering marketable programs, stackable certifications, or accelerated bachelors to masters programs.
– Learning and student success: providing engaging programs, as well as accessible programs.
– Excellence that involves diversity: diversity leads to more ideas, more different ways of doing things, and more opportunities to make things better.
– Sustainable sources of revenue, not based on traditional state support: fundraising and development.

As in previous candidate forums, the issues of arts and athletics came up in questions.

Urban reaffirmed his belief in the importance of the arts, stating, “If you think about what companies are looking for when they want to come into a region, there are a lot of things that could be attractive to them, but there are a few that seem to pop more than others.”

“One is they’re really interested in the cost and availability of healthcare in the area, and the last thing is something they call quality of life. Quality of life embodies an amalgam of things, but key in it is the arts. They want their prospective employees if they’re looking at coming into a region, to have connectivity to culture, to have connectivity to mind-expanding experiences. And they don’t just want that for their employees, but their employees want it for their children,” he continued.

“If you’re asking me, ‘is it important?’ It’s vitally important.”

In reference to the importance of athletics at the university, Urban said, “I think when we’re talking about athletics, or arts, or academic involvement, or student engagement, all of those types of things, I think one of the things we have to be really adept at is being able to tell those stories.”

“Guiding phrases for me, if I were to come here as president, and maybe somebody has used it before, I don’t know, but – Behold: The Blue and Gold. Because that’s what we’re about. It’s about telling our story. It’s about making people feel that they want to be a part of our team by providing them with the services, with the culture, with the educational product, all the things that will benefit them and make their quality of life that much better,” he said.

In response to another question that approached the kind of administrative team Urban would like to build, he explained that he would want to build a team with diverse skills, who are not afraid to communicate, and who are willing to disagree with him. He also stated he would focus on working through the university’s strategic plan. He stated that they “blew through” their most recent strategic plan at his current university, which seemed to raise some eyebrows in the crowd.

The next question followed up on his focus on the strategic plan. The question, as phrased, was, “My experience at institutions is that strategic plans get made and we never blow through them; they’re a document that we just reference. Can you talk more about what you do specifically so that’s you’re just checking off the points and making moves along the line on strategic planning?”

He focused on finding ways, not necessarily quantitative, sometimes qualitative, to measure and monitor progress, as well as clearly defining the responsibilities of those involved in implementation. He shared his experience with reviewing and restructuring the MBA program at his current university.

“A task force was formed and by the end of the year they had done all of this market research, talked to our current student, former students, alumni, people in the business community, and came up with a whole list of recommendations, and we started implementing them that following fall, and it was all market driven. It was exactly what we’ve been talking about: breaking down silos, cross-functional approaches, integration across disciplines, online availability, an accelerated program, more professional development for students outside the classroom. All of this stuff that put them right in the mainstream of best practices elsewhere.”

In his closing statement, Urban shared the story of a questioning another administrator about how they knew their job was the right one for them, and their answer, “There comes a point in the search process when you decide that it is time to fall in love with the institution.”

Urban went on to say, “I’ve been through this process now for several months. The decision point, for falling in love with the institution, is right now. And that’s what we need here. We all need to love this institution, and I know you do. And you need somebody at the helm who’s willing to show the same type of love for the institution that you all have. And I think I’m ready to do that, so I’m hoping you’ll give me a shot.”

The three other candidates for the open position of Clarion University President – Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, Dr. Amir Mohammadi, and Dr. Dione Somerville — were each invited to speak at forums this week, as well.

Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, Dean and a professor in the College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan University, spoke at an open forum on Monday, April 30.

Dr. Amir Mohammadi, Vice President for Finance, Administrative Affairs, and Advancement Services at Slippery Rock University, will be speaking at an open forum from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2.

Dr. Dione Somerville, Vice President for Student Affairs at Bloomsburg University, will be speaking at an open forum from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Friday, May 4.


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