On New GroundVeteran higher education leaders bring expertise and vision to two large public universities in the MidwestBy Ronald RoachThe 2003 Careers edition of Black Issues In Higher Education shines the spotlight on two of American higher education’s newest chief executives of multicampus universities in the Midwest. Breaking new ground as the first African American presidents of their respective institutions, Dr. Adam W. Herbert, president of the eight-campus Indiana University, and Dr. Elson S. Floyd, president of the four-campus University of Missouri system, provide frank perspectives on the challenges of managing major academic enterprises in economically difficult times.DR. ADAM W. HERBERT JR. Indiana University recruited an experienced higher education leader when it selected Dr. Adam W. Herbert Jr. to lead the eight-campus, 99,164-student institution. Herbert, who began the job this past August, was the former chancellor of the state university system of Florida from 1998 to 2000. Herbert is no stranger to the ins and outs of state politics, campus budget struggles and university governance. Prior to coming to Indiana, Herbert was at the University of North Florida, where he served as a regents professor and the founding executive director of The Florida Center for Public Policy and Leadership. He also served as president of the University of North Florida from 1989-1998. Herbert, who is the first African American president of Indiana University, took time out of a busy schedule to speak with Black Issues by telephone. BI: What are your goals for Indiana University? How would you describe the challenges in the job as president of Indiana University? AH:  Actually, they are very simple. I want to lead efforts to make it an even more distinguished institution. We have outstanding programs. I’d like to take as many of those as possible to an even higher level of achievement. We want to play a vital role in addressing the economic growth and development challenges confronting the state. I think that IU along with Purdue, are uniquely positioned as major research institutions to contribute in significant ways to those economic development activities. We want to achieve greater diversity within the university, not only in the context of our students, faculty and staff, but also in our contracting activities with outside vendors as well. Those are some of the things that I am especially interested in. The overarching goal is to lead efforts to enhance further the quality and reputation of the institution.
BI: What kind of impact are budgetary issues having on higher education in the state of Indiana? AH: I think that like with other institutions around the country, we have some challenges and we’re waiting of course to see what happens during the legislative session the first of next year to get a clear sense of whether or not there will be budget cuts. Cuts will clearly have a major impact on us, and depending upon the magnitude, we’ll have to sort out what the implications might be. Obviously, we’re hoping it won’t come to that and the economy will begin to turn around. Educational institutions are experiencing the same challenges as any company in the private sector. And those include rising health costs, technology, maintaining a competitive salary base for faculty and staff, rising energy costs, rapidly expanding costs of our books for our library. Those are significant expenses that we have to deal with irrespective of levels of funding that we get from the state. So as those state resources cannot keep pace with those rising costs, it further presents major challenges to us.BI: How would you characterize your strengths as a leader and how do you see those strengths working for you in your current position?AH: I’ve been in the academy now for 34 years, and I’ve worked in a wide array of institutional settings from a branch campus to a land-grant institution, a major private urban university, and of course, a comprehensive university in the case of North Florida. I was chancellor of a university system with a quarter of a million students so I think all of those experiences have helped me to develop a clear understanding of the dynamics of higher education institutions.
I feel very comfortable working in a multi-campus context. I think over that period of time I’ve been exposed to a wide array of the issues that university presidents must deal with on a day-to-day basis. So I think that background has been helpful for me in assuming this position. I’ve had experiences on the academic side, on the student affairs side; I’ve been very deeply involved in NCAA activities with the President’s Commission previously and in the new governance structure having served on the executive committee. The combination of those experiences and having worked in Washington, D.C., all of that has provided a good background for dealing with the issues that we’ll have an opportunity of addressing at IU.BI: How would you describe the expectations over diversity, particularly in regard to the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases?AH: I think that most universities today understand the importance of diversity on their campuses. Diversity enhances the teaching and learning processes; it exposes our students to ideas other than those with which they are most familiar. And frankly, I don’t think that the Supreme Court decision will hamper IU’s ability to expand further the diversity of the student body.
We did not use the same kind of selection process that (the University of Michigan undergraduate admissions) used, and so our situation is quite different. And for us, the issue is more one of recruiting more aggressively and keeping some of the best and brightest minority students in Indiana as they graduate from our high schools. I think that you’ll see much more aggressive recruiting; you’ll see enhanced retention activities on our campuses that will lead to the achievement of higher levels of diversity. We also will continue to recruit across the country and internationally as well to ensure that our student body not only is reflective of Indiana and the nation, but also that our students are exposed to colleagues from throughout the world. BI: Do you think the goals of excellence and diversity are mutually compatible? If so, how would you describe your strategy to achieve both objectives?AH: Sure, the bottom line is there’s outstanding minority students and faculty members who would be very much at home at Indiana University. The challenge for us is to be more aggressive in our recruitment efforts for them.
Clearly, competition among institutions is increasing. But I think that in many respects that is a positive and will have the net effect of increasing the pool of potential students and faculty because it will be clear that the market is there, and the demand is there. I think that ultimately on the faculty side you’ll see greater recruitment efforts for graduate students who ultimately will become faculty members. And on the student side, I think you’ll see increasingly more aggressive efforts to recruit minority students. I think that you’re going to see greater efforts much earlier in the educational cycle — that is, I think that we’ll see greater outreach efforts in junior high schools and the early grades of high school as we try to increase the performance levels at all of our schools — all of our public schools. That movement is under way now across the country, and I think ultimately we will see greater results of those efforts in the context of more minority children thinking about going to college. Part of the problem that we’ve had is for so many young people from low-income families the assumption they could not go to college.
When I was president of the (University of North Florida), we raised $13 million in scholarship funds for young people who went to inner-city high schools, or who lived in publicly assisted housing. Basically, the message was very simple: If you apply yourself and work hard, and stay off drugs, and maintain a clean record in terms of an absence of deviant behavior, not only are you going to be able to attend this university but we’re going to provide a full scholarship — tuition, room, board and books.
We started talking with young people in the middle schools to ensure that they were aware that these opportunities were going to be there. And so this is in part about enhancing aspirations and letting young people know that college is a possibility. BI: Do you think being African American is an asset for you in your current position? How significant a role did race have in regard to your selection as the university president?AH: With regard to the latter, I really can’t speak to that. The impression I had was that I was judged based on qualification. I’d like to think that was the case, and every indication that I’ve gotten (is) that indeed was true. I’ve had 10 years prior experience as a president; (I) served as chancellor of the second largest university system in America. I think that I had a pretty strong record of performance in all of those roles and I would like to think that those were critical factors that the board took into account. Based upon what I’ve heard, I assume that was the case.
I think it was a very significant statement that this institution made in a sense that race was not a major consideration. They were looking for the person that best matched up with the skills set that they were looking for.
(In reference to the first part of the question) I think that when you get into these roles, you’re ultimately judged on the basis of performance.
As you will recall when Martin Luther King gave his speech in the ’60s, he talked about reaching a point in our society where people are judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their hearts and their character. I believe in that fundamental principle and would like to think that this appointment is a reflection of the board of trustees of this university assuming that philosophy. BI: Given that Dr. Myles Brand, your predecessor at Indiana University, has endorsed a reformist approach to intercollegiate athletics as the NCAA president, do you believe Indiana University can be a leader among major universities in demonstrating a proper balance between athletic programs and the rest of the university?AH: I believe that we do strike that balance. This institution does a very good job in placing athletics into the proper context. As a student activity, it’s one of many. It does not drive the policies of the institution so frankly I see that balance there at the present time. BI: What lessons from your experience as chancellor of the Florida system can be applied to your job in Indiana? AH: We understood the importance of a strong focus on quality and placed a heavy emphasis on that. Accountability is something that’s very important. I think that it is important that we go through a process here as we did there of mission differentiation, being very clear as to the roles and expectations of all of our campuses, and then holding us accountable for performance. I think that becomes especially important as we assure that the public and the legislature understand the return the people of the state are getting for the investments that are being made in the universities.
I think that it’s also important that we have a very strong relationship with the legislature both in the state capital and in Washington, D.C. Institutional focus is absolutely essential. The reality is that during times that are challenging financially, focus on institutional goals and campus objectives becomes even more important, in part because resources are constrained.
One other lesson and that is you cannot build or strengthen institutions using a shotgun approach. You can’t do everything at one time; it becomes important to establish priorities and move in a systematic fashion toward the achievement of those. BI: With budgetary issues hurting state universities, to what extent can Indiana University be counted on to provide innovative leadership in the area of economic development?AH: We’re working on that right now. There are a number of initiatives at which we’re actively engaged as an university. We’re working on our own individual initiatives, but we’re also working in partnership with Purdue and with the private sector. I think part of what we’ll see in the country generally is that partnerships are becoming increasingly more important in addressing economic development issues.
One institution, in and of itself, is not necessarily going to have all the answers, or be in a position to solve what are very complex challenges. But we clearly have a role to play: I’ve created an economic development taskforce composed of senior officers of the university that have already begun looking at ways that we can enhance further this university’s involvement in those activities. We will develop an economic development strategic plan that essentially lays out in a very comprehensive fashion ways that we’re going to be involved in a number of economic development initiatives in the states, particularly in areas like the life sciences, information technology, advanced manufacturing and logistics. Those four areas stand out, and the key for us in each of those is to utilize our existing intellectual capital and technology and other resources, and to link those with the strengths of Purdue, state government and the private sector. I think that strategy is of critical importance looking ahead. BI: How would you describe the reception you’ve gotten in Indiana and how does this experience compare to past positions you’ve held?AH: The reception has been very warm, very gracious, and we could not have hoped for a warmer reception to our new academic home. I think that my wife and I both are even more excited now than when we were when we arrived about the opportunity of becoming Hoosiers. And the only challenge that I see that lies ahead is making the adaptation from Florida weather to weather here in the Midwest.



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