By DENISE DICK
Two nameplates sit in Jim Tressel’s presidential office on the second floor of Tod Hall at Youngstown State University.
One bears his name with “Dedicated to Excellence” etched beneath it. The other reads, “There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t mind who gets the credit.”
During his interviews for the YSU president’s job, Tressel talked a lot about teamwork and making decisions by building consensus.
Now he’ll have a chance to put that philosophy to work.
Friday was Tressel’s first day on campus as acting president, his title through June 30 when Interim President Ikram Khawaja, who is on vacation, retires. Tressel becomes president July 1.
He spent the day meeting with various people and groups on campus and made an appearance at the Summer Honors Institute for gifted high school students.
It’s similar to how he’s spent time since being named YSU president in mid-May.
“Every minute you spend can in preparation helps,” Tressel said. “I’ve spent pretty much every vacation I could get from [the University of] Akron here.”
He said one of his initial priorities is alignment: “I want to get to know people, to maximize their talents and give them a chance to go do it.”
Also priorities, he said, are clearly articulating the university’s vision and getting things such as collective bargaining and preparation for the start of fall semester completed.
Tressel used his time at YSU between his being named president and taking office to build relationships and to talk with students, employees, retirees and others about the university.
“It reinforced what I knew — that they all love this place where they work or go to school” and it’s made a lasting impression and impact on their lives, he said.
The new president acknowledged the challenges facing the institution: declining enrollment and less money from the state, a reduced budget that led to layoffs and negotiations with the two largest employee unions on campus.
“It’s hard for negotiations to go well when you have budget constraints,” he said. “It’s a difficult time.”
Tressel plans to allow the people who have been involved in the process to continue to work on it.
“I’ve talked to people on both sides socially at the press conferences and the events, and they want the same thing,” Tressel said. “They want what’s best for students, and they want to be treated fairly.”