President’s Perspective: Coming attractions for 2014

Randy J. DunnBy Randy J. Dunn

Greetings for the Spring 2014 semester! I hope everyone was able to enjoy a great holiday break and that you’ve returned to YSU refreshed, renewed, and ready for what lies ahead in the new year. I know that many on campus took advantage of the “6 for 16” plan, but if you’re like me, you were probably ready to get back to the established routine that work provides. It’s been good to see returning faculty and students these past few days.

Having not written my column for about seven weeks now, I’ve been eager to return to the task once again. I suppose most people either like writing…or they don’t. While during some stretches of the semester the deadline to submit my column copy seems to come around pretty quickly, taking the time out to write this little dispatch every other week provides a welcome diversion from the other things on my plate at any given point. And depending upon the topic, sitting down and forcing myself to articulate in writing a decision, position, agenda, or whatever is tremendously helpful in clarifying my own thinking and values.

What I’d like to do in this first column for 2014 is to preview some of the coming attractions I’ll likely be addressing in this space over the next few weeks – items I’m sure we’ll be discussing across campus throughout the spring:

  • The elephant in the room that will command an increasing amount of time, attention, and focus from all corners of the University is our budget – not just the success of the deficit reduction plan put into place to address a potential $6.5 million of red ink in the current FY14 budget, but also the FY15 development process that is already underway for the new budget starting July 1. The success we have in navigating the remainder of this fiscal year will be a harbinger of how difficult it is going to be in presenting a balanced budget for the 2014-15 academic term. Enrollment, the progress of union negotiations, increases in fixed costs, and other factors will make this a fluid process, so I’ll try to provide pertinent updates in this venue as well as others.
  • As I’m guessing everyone knows by now, we’ll be engaged as a campus in the search for a new provost given the retirement of Dr. Khawaja on June 30. We’re in the process of both appointing members to a broad and inclusive Search Advisory Committee to guide this critical task for our campus while also awarding a contract for a search consultant to assist the committee in its work. It is my plan to have finalist candidates on campus before the end of this semester, following about the same time frame and format as when I interviewed last year. The priority setting and academic visioning that emerges from this process will surely provide fodder for a future column (or more) as we seek a new academic leader for YSU.
  • Even with all that goes on across a busy, vibrant campus, I am getting traction this spring on some larger, institution-wide work centered around the University’s Strategic Directions of Enrollment, Engagement and Excellence. I’m figuring that at least one of my biweekly reports in the coming weeks will be dedicated to recent progress toward those ends.

That’s likely enough for now to give you a sneak peek at what’s in store here, not just for this column space, but for the University in general, as we head into this spring semester. As we are all called to do, I look forward to working with many of you – through both the opportunities and challenges – to keep Youngstown State University moving forward in the year ahead.