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Finalist: YSU is good fit for me



Published: Sun, January 10, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Harold Gwin

The UCM board did not renew Podolefsky’s contract as president.

YOUNGSTOWN — Aaron Podolefsky said he is a man who gets things done.

The 14th president of the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo., has helped that school get national recognition for academic quality and innovative sustainability efforts during his five years in office.

Now, he is looking to bring that expertise to Youngstown State University.

Podolefsky is one of four finalists for YSU president to succeed David C. Sweet who will retire in June.

Podolefsky, 63, will be on campus early this week and will speak at an open public forum Monday in the board of trustees meeting room on the first floor of Tod Hall.

Under his leadership, Central Missouri, with about 11,000 students, has set records for the highest quality first-year class, the highest graduation rate and the highest job-placement rate in the school’s history. It also has launched a $36 million energy project that includes the drilling of 150 geothermal wells to cut campus utility costs.

“He is a very energetic and determined person,” said Davie Davis, president of the faculty senate at UCM. “He’s done a very good job. We’re much better off than we were five years ago.”

It’s pretty clear that Youngstown is a very exciting place, Podolefsky said, citing YSU’s recent designation as an urban research university as an example that the university is “on an upward trajectory.”

It has a lot of community connections geared to help foster economic development and a good academic profile, he said, adding, “It’s a good fit for me.”

“I like to hear a lot of ideas. I tend to be pretty open,” Podolefsky said in describing his administrative style. He said he encourages people to toss out ideas and attempts to develop a consensus before making final decisions.

He said he is aware of past labor strife at YSU.

His experience with labor unions at UCM has been limited because faculty in Missouri don’t organize, but the physical plant staff has a bargaining unit. However, as provost at the University of Northern Iowa before coming to UCM, he was the highest ranking university employee at the bargaining table with faculty.

“It’s a lot like a marriage. We all hope that it will go smoothly,” he said, explaining that he is interested in working collaboratively and transparently when it comes to negotiations.

Retaining faculty, attracting more students, dealing with economic challenges and the loss of federal stimulus funds in 2012 are issues that all colleges and universities are facing, Podolefsky said. YSU is positioned to put out more math and science graduates with its new College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, he said.

Although he says five years is about the average tenure for a university president, Podolefsky’s departure from UCM is the result of the school’s board of governors voting 4-3 not to renew his contract last October. It expires June 30.

He has since been a finalist for the presidency of two other schools — Central Washington University and Georgia Southern University — though he withdrew from consideration at Georgia because he didn’t feel it was a correct fit.

“We appreciate the contributions President Podolefsky has made in leading the university through a name change, the current construction projects, and successful efforts to improve the academic profile of the university,” Richard Phillips, president of the UCM Board of Governors, said at the time of the board vote.

Phillips declined to discuss the reasons for the board’s action, saying it is “a personnel matter.”

Podolefsky did some good things for the university, he said, citing ongoing building projects and a renewed emphasis on academics. He disputed suggestions that a change in board membership resulted in a change in board direction. Things may change a bit as new personalities come on the scene, but the board’s values don’t change much, he said.

Deleta Williams, former board president, left the board shortly after that vote as her term expired. She was a Podolefsky supporter and voted to renew his contract.

“I thought he did a very good job,” Williams said, pointing out that Podolefsky provided good leadership, and the university moved forward under his direction.

“Cronyism” is the word she described as what happened regarding the president’s contract.

A number of new board members were appointed and apparently had a different agenda, Williams said, adding that it appeared that some members took exception to the president holding the UCM athletic department accountable for not staying within its annual budgets.

“I think he’s done some good things for the campus,” said Jerry Hughes, UCM athletic director, rating Podolefsky as “a good, decent president.” He helped persuade the board to enact a student athletic fee to help finance athletic programs, Hughes said.

You may not always agree with him, but he is the boss, Hughes said.

Podolefsky has strong support on campus. UCM students organized a march in his support and 52 percent of the tenured faculty signed a petition asking the board of governors to renew his contract.

Community support was strong as well. A poll conducted by The Daily Star-Journal in Warrensburg, Mo., showed that 70 percent of the respondents wanted him to stay, and a UCM student newspaper poll showed 83 percent of the respondent campus community agreed.

Podolefsky said it was clear the board majority wanted to go in a new direction, adding, “I’m really affirmed by the response on campus.”

“I don’t think anybody can argue with the success (of Podolefsky’s presidency),” said Jack Miles, editor of The Daily Star-Journal. “I think he’s going to be very difficult to replace.”

gwin@vindy.com

AARON PODOLEFSKY

Backgrounder

Aaron Podolefsky is one of four finalists for president of Youngstown State University. Here are his academic credentials:

Bachelor’s degree in mathematics: 1968, San Jose State University.

Master’s in liberal studies: 1974, State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Master’s in anthropology: 1975, State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Doctorate with distinction in anthropology: 1978, State University of New York at Stone Brook.

2005-present: President and professor of anthropology, University of Central Missouri.

1998-2005: Provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of anthropology, University of Northern Iowa.

1990-98: Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and professor of anthropology, University of Northern Iowa.

1986-90: Department head and professor of anthropology, Western Kentucky University.

1985-86: Associate chair and associate professor of anthropology, West Virginia University

1979-85: Assistant professor of anthropology, West Virginia University.

1978-79: Research associate, Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, Northwestern University.

Spring 1978: Lecturer and acting director: Youth & Community Studies Program, State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Spring 1976: Acting lecturer in anthropology, State University of New York at Stony Brook.

1974-77: Teaching Assistant: Oceania, Ecology & Social Organization.

1971-73: Mathematics teacher, Brentwood, N.Y., Public Schools.

1968-70: Mathematics Teacher: Copaigue, N.Y., Public Schools.

Source: Aaron Podolefsky


Comments

1my2cents(11 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

WE WANT DR ANDERSON. WE DONT CARE ABOUT YOUR RESUME. WE WANT DR ANDERSON.

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2Ken(153 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Naturally, Podolefsky thinks he is..."a good fit for me." at YSU. He would be a fool to think otherwise....but he was not renewed in his current position! And, at YSU he would want a feasibility study done for something; hire a consultant for some other reason and conduct a five year study for something else. Plus, it would take him a year to find his way around the area and he would have no clue as to the local high schools and their feeder programs to YSU.
Dr. Anderson is very well qualified; has done more for YSU than any other YSU employee and is visible to students, faculty and community leaders.
Give Dr. Anderson the chance she has earned!

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3nlpavalko(12 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Dr. Anderson? Really? Why not bring in someone without a tie to the Valley. Someone with new ideas.

Dr. Anderson's promotion to President would be an other example of Mahoning Valley nepotism at its finest!

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4Lifes2Short(3877 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Interesting....

University president's ouster raises questions

http://www.semissourian.com/story/158...

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5ysualum299(11 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

YSU good fit? so was Georgia Southern "Podolefsky: Georgia Southern ‘just feels good’" (from: http://www.stp.georgiasouthern.edu/in...). Of course when he didn't get the Georgia Southern job it wasn't a good fit. he said the same two things about Central Washington (http://www.digitalburg.com/artman2/pu...). some folks will say or do anything to get a job (for themselves or their friend). would we risk athletics to hire him? besides my friend at YSU said that the dean of CSTEM said that Dr. Anderson was a done deal from the start and then left town before the interview. so why should we bother with these candidates?

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6CandyfromCanfield(172 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Dr. Anderson has not left town since she was named as one of the four finalists. Not sure who your source is, but they are wrong. The Dean of CSTEM might have made such an ill-informed comment...but that wouldn't be surprising. I urge everyone to attend all of the candidates' visits. There's an awful lot at stake here...the University is at a crossroads and we need a strong, solid, capable leader. From what I've heard from friends at other institutions, Dr. Podolefsky was a victim of political infighting. He simply backed the wrong horse, so to speak, and "paid" for his mistake with his job.

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7goYtown(13 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Let's be fair to all four of the candidates. Opportunities have been made available for everyone interested to listen to the candidates. If the internal candidate emerges as the best qualified for YSU's needs, then so be it. But let the process evolve and not rush to judgment about which candidate is the best choice before giving due consideration to all four.

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