Aaron Podolefsky, finalist for the presidency, spoke at an open forum on campus.
By Harold Gwin
YOUNGSTOWN — Aaron Podolefsky sees three key elements in Youngstown State University’s future.
First, it is a comprehensive university that must provide a small- college learning environment coupled with large-college opportunities while showing care and concern for its students and programs, he said.
Second, YSU has a long and great tradition of offering opportunities to students, many of whom are first generation college students, and that should not be lost, he said.
Third, it is an anchor institution located in the core of the city. It has a responsibility to the community to make it a better place, he said.
Those key issues are only a draft for the university community to consider, said Podolefsky, president of the University of Central Missouri. He was on the YSU campus Monday as a candidate for president and spoke at an open community forum that drew about 90 people, many of them part of the campus community.
Scott Schulick, president of the YSU Board of Trustees, said questions raised by people at the forum will aid the board in selecting a president to succeed David C. Sweet, who retires June 30. The board hopes to make that decision by mid- to late February, he told the group.
Podolefsky also offered what he said are the three biggest challenges facing higher education today: quality, access and cost.
The three are intertwined, he said, explaining that you can increase quality and increase access, but to do so also increases cost. By cost, he referred to affordability as it applies to students as well as the cost to provide that education.
The biggest test is to make all three work together, he said.
A fourth challenge is the role a university plays in economic growth and well-being of the community it serves, he said.
Podolefsky also answered questions posed by his audience. Some of the issues were:
U Diversity — Diversity is a personal-core issue but should also be a core value for the institution, Podolefsky said. It must include equal opportunity and a world-class learning environment that can only be achieved with a diverse faculty, staff and student body. The president must take a moral stand when an issue presents itself, he said.
U Building student relationships — Podolefsky said he’s still working on that one, trying to determine how he can be responsive to 14,000 students yet have the time to deal with the wide variety of responsibilities that befall a university president. Connecting with students is very important, he said, adding that he wants to be fully engaged. Technology may provide part of the answer, he said.
U Study-abroad programs — “I think study abroad is a wonderful thing,” Podolefsky said, recounting the experiences of his own two sons who spent some time abroad. That effort by faculty must be supported and encouraged, he said.
U Presidential community involvement — A president should be involved in many things, and Podolefsky said he is involved in community and civic as well as educational programs off-campus at Central Missouri. The president is the symbol of the university. When the president is present at a program or function, it is a clear sign the university is participating, he said.
U Faculty research — The goal would hopefully be to reduce the bureaucracy faculty must go through to get time away from classes to conduct research, an important part of YSU’s future as an urban research university, Podolefsky said.
Podolefsky was accompanied on his visit by his wife, Ronnie, a civil rights attorney.
She had lunch with a number of local attorneys, many of whom are YSU alumni, and said she was impressed with their ongoing connection with YSU.
Presidential finalists C. Jack Maynard, provost and chief academic officer at Indiana State University, and Cheryl Norton, president of Southern Connecticut State University, will be on campus Jan. 19 and 21, respectively.
The final candidate, Cynthia Anderson, vice president for student affairs at YSU, will speak at a Jan. 26 community forum on campus.