Murray State Students Have High Expectations For Next University President
Murray State students have high expectations for the next university president. More than 70 students attended a frank and hopeful discussion Wednesday afternoon on a wide range of issues with the Presidential Search Committee.
Student Regent J.T. Payne, who is serving on the committee, kicked off the forum with some of his own thoughts. "To be blunt, in recent years, Murray State has been heading in the wrong direction," he said and described "plummeting enrollment" creating a financial uncertainty that has 'hindered' the quality of student life on campus. He said he agrees with faculty and staff feedback (at a similar forum earlier this month) about finding a leader who "understands and appreciates Murray State's culture and all that is has to offer," but added that the university also needs someone who is not afraid of change and making bold and necessary decisions.
Many of the students in attendance offered similar feedback, including wanting improvements to various aspects of student life as well as someone who will increase recruitment in urban areas, can deal with financial issues, understands Frankfort politics, values diversity and inclusion, makes their presence known on campus, respects faculty and staff and has Murray State roots and a familiarity with the area.
Among student feedback:
Lauren Campbell is a senior from Hopkinsville. She said she wants a president who is financially literate and referenced the projected $4.5 million shortfall this year. She also wants a president who cares about student life, can recruit students and will tackle deferred maintenance. Responding to Campbell, Committee Chair Lisa Rudolph said deferred maintenance will be a "huge topic" at the next board of regents meeting on December 7.
Jillian Owen said this semester is her first on campus. She wants an active president who interacts with students. She said she knows this semester had an interim president, "but I couldn't tell you who the president was or who the interim president is," and wants a new president who she can identify "definitively."
Trey Book is a junior from Henderson and is the president of the Interfraternity Council. He wants a president who supports Greek Life, will update the campus and will better staff the recruitment office.
Cole Crocker of Nashville agreed with a need to improve recruitment, particularly in his home city. He said he considered an array of universities in the southeast and others, such as Western Kentucky University, had more up-to-date buildings. He added that Murray State was affordable and has "great teachers and faculty and staff." He also wanted to see more involvement on campus on weekends and during breaks. "Something that I look for in the new president would be somebody who is connected with Murray, but also has ventured out and has been successful in other areas of life. Specifically, somebody who has represented another large group of people in a different setting. Somebody who has both law and financial backgrounds and is a very goal-oriented person," he said.
Giavonna Morris is a senior from northern Virginia and never thought she'd come to Murray, but has found it to be a second home. She said the world is changing quickly and a future president should understand diversity, including cultural backgrounds and the LGBTQ community. Chelsea Potter said the university should put more emphasis on recruiting students of color because everyone on campus benefits from diversity.
Cole Emerson is a sophomore and said his mother's side of the family has 27 degrees from Murray State. In speaking with family members over Thanksgiving, he said there was an agreement that the number one priority is financial security. "I get emotional about it how much I love this town," he said, "I want to be able to have this university here long term for my kids, great-grandkids, keep having those think tanks at Thanksgiving, Christmas so number one overall should be financial security. Someone familiar with the situation, with a plan."
Regents Payne and Rudolph expressed appreciation for the substance of student feedback. "You have asked for a dynamic leader. You set that bar pretty high," Rudolph said.
Regent Chair Susan Guess said the challenges Murray State faces are not unlike what universities are facing across the country. "We are not in crisis. We are in a position where great things can happen here," she said, adding that, under her leadership, regents have and will continue to tour the campus and hear feedback.
Murray State is searching for its 14th president following the departure of Bob Davies in early August. The Board of Regents appointed former Murray State University Foundation president Bob Jackson as interim university president.
The search process will be set in the December 7 Board of Regents meeting and formal meetings will begin December 14.
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