Interim UND President Joshua Wynne may not know how long he’ll be president of the state’s flagship university, but he believes his success relies on moving the university forward and keeping his eyes locked on the road ahead.
Wynne met with the Herald editorial board Thursday and discussed a number of topics, including how he would determine his own success and failure as an interim president.
Wynne believes his time at the helm of the university will be a success if UND “is not staring in the rearview mirror” when he completes his presidency. Additionally, he said he wants the perception, both on and off campus, to believe that “UND is moving forward and striving for excellence.”
“If that is the general perception then I would have been successful,” he said.
He also would like there to be a general perception that there is openness and debate around decision-making at the university.
“We’re not just talking about it, but we’re actually doing it,” he said.
One sign of an unsuccessful tenure as president would be “a failure to recruit a really good president,” Wynne said, later adding that a vote of no-confidence also would indicate failure during his time as president.
“Candidates are very perceptive as to what’s going on on a campus and in a community and in a state,” Wynne said. “One of the measures of failure, or a lack of success, would be either problems with a search or a candidate who really doesn’t fit the bill.”
Wynne was named interim president on May 30, temporarily replacing previous President Mark Kennedy. Wynne has been dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences since 2010. Before becoming permanent dean, Wynne served as interim dean beginning in early 2009.
A search committee has begun the process to permanently replace Kennedy, who left UND after three years to become the next president of the University of Colorado system. Wynne said all of the discussion about the search -- and when a new president may take over -- adds pressure to be successful.
While he doesn’t want the university system and the State Board of Higher Education to drag its feet on the decision, Wynne said there also needs to be enough time to ensure people understand the positive things going on at the university. No matter what, Wynne said it can be difficult to judge the success or failure of an interim president because they often serve for a few months to a year.
“There’s only so much you can do in a concrete way,” he said.
Wynne said UND’s most recent interim president, former Gov. Ed Schafer, did a “terrific job” during his time leading the university. Schafer was interim president for six months before Mark Kennedy took the job in July 2016.
“What I liked about Ed is that he did and does have strong feelings about a variety of topics, and yet he was openly receptive to counterpoints of view,” Wynne said. “Even with some of his … strongly held thoughts he was amenable to adjusting them based on feedback he got.”
Wynne said Schafer seemed to have a “demonstrable, positive effect on the vice presidents” during Schafer's six months as president. That was because of Schafer's style, Wynne said.
“It wasn’t the substance of accomplishments per se, but it was his way of dealing with people,” he said. “... If similar things can be said about me at the end of, arguably, six months that will be success and if I don’t do it, that would be failure.”