In campus visit, Shirley emphasizes importance of UND president building trust among colleagues
Steven Shirley has done more reflection lately than he's done in years. He can remember the night before classes began his freshman year at UND. He can vividly see the self-described shy and typical kid from Fargo nervously walked around campus o...
Steven Shirley has done more reflection lately than he's done in years.
He can remember the night before classes began his freshman year at UND. He can vividly see the self-described shy and typical kid from Fargo nervously walked around campus on that late August evening trying to find where all of his classes would be the next day.
Then he sees himself now-standing before a room full of people, making his pitch to be UND's next president.
"I keep thinking about who that young man was and how different that young man became after he received an education at the University of North Dakota," Shirley said during an open forum Friday afternoon.
Shirley is the only one of the six remaining candidates vying to be UND's leader who is a sitting president. From 2008 to 2014, Shirley was a president at Valley City State University before taking the same position at Minot State University, where he's worked since.
Shirley, who holds three degrees from UND, said during his meeting with stakeholders Friday how the university transformed him into the leader he is today and how he wants to help transform the school he loves.
If he becomes the school's next president, Shirley emphasized integrity, honesty and trust. Without those, he said, it's impossible to lead or work with others.
"Whether it's a president at a university or a teller at a local bank, if you don't have these things, you really have nothing else to start from or build upon," Shirley said. "If the people you're working with can't trust you, nothing else really matters."
To be an effective president, Shirley also emphasized the importance of open communication where all voices are heard, appreciated and respected. He said he likes to have a devil's advocate in the room so he can ensure he's heard all points of view before coming to a conclusion.
During the forum, Shirley said under his leadership he would strive to inspire and lead with vision and consistency, establish new relationships and capitalize on existing ones, and committ to understand the people and programs at UND, among other things.
For students, Shirley wants to focus on increasing student retention, graduation and student success rates, and hopes to keep the cost of tuition low. Shirley touted being an open and accessible president who makes a point to be at all types of university events meeting students, whether that's at an athletic event, a recital or a theater performance.
"I think it has an impact on how they feel about their connection to the university in some broader level," he said. "That's one thing that has been communicated back to me many, many, many times since I've been there."
Shirley was the first of six candidates to come to Grand Forks for on-campus interviews to replace former UND President Robert Kelley, who departed in January. Morgan Olsen, the executive vice president, treasurer and chief finance officer at Arizona State University, will be the second presidential candidate to come to campus, with a visit from Sunday through Wednesday and an open forum at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The remaining candidates-Mark R. Kennedy, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University and a former Minnesota congressman; Mark Rudin, vice president for research and economic development at Boise State University; Jay Noren, associate dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago; and Nagi Naganathan, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Toledo-will all take turns visiting campus until March 9.
Afterward, the UND Presidential Search Committee will forward at least three finalists to the State Board of Higher Education.