Khawaja: Navigating through these ‘unique times’

Khawaja,Ikram 6-05mBy Ikram Khawaja
Interim president

Even after more than four decades at YSU, I must say that I was humbled by the Board of Trustees’ decision to appoint me as interim president. I am honored to be able to step in on a temporary basis to help guide the university in this transitional period.

I was out of the country – actually, as part of a voluntary, unpaid furlough – when Randy Dunn announced his resignation in February, but I am well aware that it created a stir on campus and in the community. As we all know, YSU – and any university, for that matter – is much more than just one person. So, as Dr. Garg, chair of the trustees, said in the last edition of YSUpdate, “Onward we move.”

There is much work before us as the trustees proceed in their search for Dr. Dunn’s permanent replacement as president. Very real budget challenges continue. Enrollment remains a top priority. Accreditation in for the Williamson College of Business Administration is approaching. Efforts to reach contract settlements with the university’s two largest unions will move into full gear in the next several weeks.

There also remain many significant signs of continued progress. Through the first half of fiscal year 2014, faculty and staff were awarded more than $5 million in grant funds, two times the amount for the first half of the previous fiscal year. The recent National Survey of Student Engagement again showed that the vast majority of students surveyed express a high-degree of satisfaction with their education and experiences at YSU. So, as we face the challenges, there also are very real positive indicators for the university – indicators that we seem sometimes to forget, especially in times like those that are before us now.

Let me reassure everyone that these issues, and many others that may arise in the course of the next few weeks, will be handled in a systematic manner and in the best interest of the university. I ask for your patience and cooperation as we navigate through these unique times. I welcome your input and advice, and I will be seeking the counsel of many of you, as well.

From a practical standpoint, for the period that I serve as interim president, I have appointed – in consultation with the board – Teri Riley to serve as interim provost. As for myself, I have committed to serve in this interim capacity until June 30, the date of my retirement. The board hopes to have a permanent president in place at that time.

In conclusion, I want to acknowledge the work of everyone on campus during the past six weeks. You have not been distracted. You have remained steadfast in your service to our students and the community, and to each other. After 40 years, watching all of you – in good times and not so good – I can’t say that I’m surprised. Keep up the good work. Thank you all.

(Ikram Khawaja, who joined YSU’s faculty in 1968, became interim president on March 23. In his 40-plus years at YSU, he has served as a faculty member, department chair, director of faculty relations, interim dean and provost.)