President’s Perspective: Refocusing the administrative structure

Randy J. Dunn

By President Randy J. Dunn


As a president having just come to a new university, it is not unusual to make adjustments to some organizational structures and arrangements, whether those changes be in regard to people, titles and job descriptions, reporting relationships, or whatever. There is a notion that every CEO wants the organizational landscape he or she inherits to link perfectly with a personal mindscape about how the organization (in my case, YSU) can most strategically function. This mindscape is often formed over the course of a career and (again, I hope in my case) includes a good dose of self-awareness of one’s own strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

Of course, there is no one right way to handle leadership transition, and it’s a mistake for a leader in transition to always assume that the skills and strategies which worked in the past will hold true in the next job. But part of taking a new position is to correctly assess the organizational situation…and then to make changes in the organizational structure to optimize desired results.

We all acknowledge there is work for each one of us to do across many areas certainly, but fortunately YSU is NOT an institution in crisis.  We are not a classic “turnaround” case in serious trouble of going out of business anytime soon. But we are what Michael D. Watkins, writing in the Harvard Business Review (January 2009), calls a “realignment” case—a generally successful organization that now has some critical challenges impinging upon us.  In such cases, Watkins notes that it can be helpful to restructure at the top of the organization to refocus and reinvigorate our efforts.

I think some of that can be useful for me here. However, given my own style, I’ve wanted to take this first couple of months to thoughtfully assess roles, responsibilities, relationships, opportunities, and the like before making changes to support higher pay-offs in those areas we’re going to be focusing on most heavily in the coming months. But having had some time to do that now, you’ll be noticing the following changes I’m directing in our administrative structure at YSU:

  • All offices and individuals (saving the exception noted below) comprising the Office of Marketing Communications under Executive Director Mark Van Tilburg will now report to the Division of University Advancement under Vice President Scott Evans.
  • The position of Director of University Communications currently held by Ron Cole will be re-titled to Public Information Officer and will report to me.  The PIO classification is one used by many governmental and public agencies—including those in Ohio—for the types of duties Ron undertakes for me as president specifically, and for YSU generally (e.g., overseeing news releases, handling media inquiries, preparing speeches and public presentations, etc.).
  • All offices and individuals comprising the WYSU-FM Department under Director Gary Sexton will now report to the Division of University Advancement under Vice President Scott Evans.
  • The Office of Enrollment Management (which includes the Office of Admissions) under an Associate Vice President not yet appointed, will have dual reporting to the President’s Office, in addition to the Division of Student Affairs.  This will allow Vice President Jack Fahey a greater opportunity to support our student life and student development efforts.
  • The Institutional Research unit will report to the Division of Finance and Administration under Vice President Gene Grilli, through the position of Chief Technology Officer Ken Schindler.
  • The position of Executive Associate to the President currently held by Shannon Tirone will be re-titled to Chief of Staff and will remain a direct report to me.  Shannon’s job duties since taking her position in the President’s Office some years ago have been comprised of classic COS responsibilities: coordinating operational activities, ensuring the progress of important cross-functional projects, scheduling, liaison staffing for the Board of Trustees, and other related duties on my behalf.

There may be a few similar changes in the months ahead, depending upon any variety of factors. Too, as earlier announced, our Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Ikram Khawaja has agreed to delay his retirement and will remain in that role until June 30, 2014.  Work will begin on the selection of a new provost later this year upon approval of the overall process by our Board, as required by YSU policy.

Finally: No additional administrative units are being formed, no new positions are being created, and there will be no change in compensation or benefits for the individuals impacted by these changes.  Rather, we’re reorganizing some to take on our important work for the future in new ways.