CUP Presidential Candidate Sees Clarion as a Great Opportunity, Plans to Focus on Enrollment, Access Education
Abraham is one of three candidates vying for the open position of Clarion University President.
According to Dr. Abraham’s curriculum vitae, his education includes a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Delaware, and his experience ranges from nine years as a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Tulsa to his current position as Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs, a position he has held for the last three years.
In Dr. Abraham’s opening statement, he focused on what he considers the top ten items he would bring to Clarion as University President.
These attributes include a commitment to and passion for Access Education; a focus on enrollment; collaborative spirit; open communications; shared governance; collective bargaining experience; fundraising experience; innovative spirit; a commitment to success; and a spouse who will also contribute to the university and community.
The question and answer segment started out with a question about his motivation to apply for the position at Clarion.
“I’m just looking for the next opportunity,” Abraham said. “I’m passionate about Access Education – Clarion offers that. I believe in public education – Clarion offers that. I like the community and the things that are going on and some of the places you positioned yourself and the opportunities it provides.”
“A lot of things have been settled in Pennsylvania recently in terms of higher education. You look around at the PASSHE schools, many of them have new presidents. So, there’s a great opportunity to come together with relatively new presidents to grow the whole system and create opportunity amongst all of the colleges, of the universities in the system.”
“It’s an appropriate time for me to leave Youngstown. What you guys are doing here at Clarion in particular and in the state in terms of coordinating all of that – it’s a great place to be. It looks like a great opportunity to move and enhance and expand and do great things for a community that is looking for some new leadership.”
As in the previous candidate forum, the issues of arts and athletics came up in several questions.
“I believe in STEAM. We actually have a STEAM initiative in Youngstown, we call it – what we call Launch Lab – which is an integration, really, largely between our engineering folks and our arts folks. It comes out of more of the sculpture area. So, 3D art and 3D engineering have come together and created some capability in 3D printing that is a beautiful laboratory, a facility – not even a lab – it’s a design facility located in our business college. So, it’s not even just STEAM, it also incorporates the business college in the things that we do, and looks at how you come together from different perspectives and bring them together and grow those opportunities,” Abraham said.
After concern was voiced over Youngstown recently eliminating a Dance Management program, he explained that it wasn’t a decision to purposefully eliminate the program; it was a very small program, with only about a dozen students, and just one faculty member. When that one faculty member decided to retire, the university simply chose to phase out the program rather than investing in a new faculty member for such a tiny program.
Abraham discussed the creation of new programs, such as a film program and a video game design program, that are collaborative programs, between different departments such as Theater and Communications, as well as growing musical theater by building on the strength of Youngstown’s current music program.
In reference to athletics at the university, Abraham stated, “(Athletics) touches virtually everybody, and it’s an important element of the university experience. Some of your students would not come to Clarion University if you did not have a high-quality athletics experience that they can participate in, not as an athlete, but as a college student supporting their athletics programs.”
“How do you capitalize on that from a fundraising standpoint? Well, you really promote the good things that the athletes are doing. You promote the good things that are going on whether it’s athletics or anything, all of the things that you’re doing that make your programs special, that makes them excellent. There are people who get excited about (it),” he said.
There were a few more “hardball questions” thrown in this session, as well.
One audience member brought up a recent article, in which Abraham discussed faculty hiring issues. The question was specifically regarding a quote, in which Abraham said, “For every student, 90 percent of what we teach, they won’t use.”
Abraham explained the context of the quote, which was a conversation about making decisions based solely on finances. He said that what he intended in the conversation was to point out that although a graduate won’t use most of what they learned in the majority of their classes on a day to day basis, those learning experiences – and the critical thinking skills and ability to learn beyond the classroom they can gain from the university experience – are very important.
Abraham was questioned about his priorities on academic support. Although Abraham was more than willing to discuss building a “culture of support” for students – to guide students through procedures and the red tape of things like financial aid and course scheduling – one particular statement did not seem to sit well with the crowd.
He stated that “If a student doesn’t have the academic skills, there’s only so much we’re going to be able to do as a university to get them up to speed.”
Later in the session, he was specifically asked to go back to this issue.
“When I’m talking about only so much we can do, I’m talking about students who can’t do basic math…We’re limited in terms of things we can do for those types when I talk about academic preparedness,” he said.
He elaborated on issues of Access Education and the need for faculty and staff to support students through caring, guidance, and assistance in navigating the intricacies of the university system.
In response to a question on the difference between his current role of provost versus the role he would be taking on as president, Abraham stated that as provost his role had a more internal focus and as president, he would have a more external, visible focus.
Abraham also was given an opportunity to discuss his fundraising experience, his dedication to efficiently managing resources, his successes in lobbying with legislative bodies, and his experience with increasing enrollment.
When questioned about his goals as president, he expressed, “My goals need to be your goals. As president, I have to be listening to what you need.”
“If I come in with a different agenda than what you have, I’m going to fail. And, I’m not coming here to fail, trust me; I’m coming here because I want to be successful. So, I’m going to listen and hear what the goals are, and hear what the strategies are and how you get there, and we’re going to assimilate those and put them together to be successful as a team,” he said.
Another candidate, Dr. Robert (Bob) Glenn, president of Athens State University, in Athens, Alabama, who is also vying for the open position of Clarion University President, spoke at an open forum on Monday, February 26, focusing much of his opening statement and many of his answers on community and communication.
The community will have the opportunity to meet Dr. David Urban, the final candidate on Wednesday.
Dr. Urban is dean of Jennings A. Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee. His open forum is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7, in the Suites on Main North Theater.
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