CUP Presidential Candidate Pehrsson Discusses Sustainability and Growth
CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, Dean and professor of the College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan University, spoke at an open forum on Monday afternoon sponsored by the Clarion University Presidential Search Committee.
Pehrsson is one of four candidates currently vying for the open position of Clarion University President.
According to Pehrsson’s curriculum vitae, her education includes a Doctoral Degree of Education (Ed.D.) in Counselor Education & Counseling from Idaho State University, as well as a Master’s Degree of Counseling in Community Counseling from Idaho State University. Her experience ranges from Department Chair of the Department of Counselor Education in the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV (2007-2010), to her current position as Dean and Professor of the College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan University, a position she has held for the last six years.
In her opening statements, Pehrsson talked about the importance of sustainability, particularly in rural universities.
“What a university needs to do moving forward, especially a comprehensive that competes with fourteen other universities in the system, is to look at things that you are particularly placed to do well. To have the staff, faculty, and students, and the people out in the community give you input about what is the most relevant, what is the most important for here and now, building on the history of the past and moving forward into the 21st century,” Pehrsson said.
“The burgeoning opportunities that this particular state has are growth areas, founded in the tradition of liberal education, which teaches people to think, problem solve, and learn from our history.”
“If I’m going to go into an area and help train my students and educate them to do economic development, we have to be able to pull communities together. Not warring, but working together toward making the best changes.”
One of the early questions posed during the forum asked if higher education is neglecting some people because of the structure or approach to learning. Pehrsson answered this with a resounding “yes”, and went on to explain, “The world is changing, and the students of generation Z, generation X, millennials, they learn differently from my generation.”
“There are many different ways that appeal to learning. Our job is to figure out how to get that information and get that learning experience to the students who need it in different ways. And that’s where I think we’ve got some problems. We’re not quite as nimble, and it’s hard to make those changes quickly enough.”
She went on to add, “One of the things that’s great about some core liberal education courses is it really teaches people to discriminate research and information, to really look at things and do their own evaluation of what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s good, what’s bad, what information is real, what information is, to use a fun term, ‘fake’. There’s so much information out there that is not necessarily education. So teaching our students how to decipher what is very valuable for them to go forward and use, that’s a critical skill.”
“That’s the next challenge, I think, we’ve got so much information out there how to teach people to really use it and look at through a critical lens of understanding. That’s where the strength of education comes from.”
As in previous candidate forums, the issues of arts and athletics came up in several questions.
Pehrsson made it very clear that she supports the arts, stating, “When I moved from nursing into my training as a counselor, and I did career counseling, family counseling, a lot of things, and one thing that I learned to do was work with children. I learned to be a play therapist and an art therapist, and art truly does save lives. It’s kind of a cliche, but it is through the expression of art that our humanity comes out and our culture comes alive.”
“We have to breathe in the beautiful spirit of life that is in our communities, and that is done, very often, through theatre, through song, through art, through sculpture. It’s critical, it’s important, it needs to be funded,” she continued.
In terms of athletics, she cited the importance of athletic programs to students, stating, “They [athletics programs] build capacity, they build teams, they build perfection, in the sense that you will hone and hone your craft until you’re good at it. You create leaders; people who come and perform as part of a team do better in business, they do better out in the community going forward.”
When asked what she would bring to help Clarion University “get back on track”, Pehrsson pointed to her broad range of experience with networking, advocacy, and fundraising.
“I am a realistic optimist. I always look at possibilities and help connect people to make a place better. So I’m able to look at resources and connect the dots,” she stated.
Pehrsson also seemed quite taken with Clarion; in response to a question about why she chose to apply for a position here, she stated, “There are so many reasons I would choose to come here, we could probably talk for another hour, but I’ll be a little succinct. You’re going to make a big difference in the economic development of the state and the region: you always have, and you’re going to continue to do that. You’re poised for some really great growth, and you have great people who care, despite all of the things that have happened.”
The community will have the opportunity to meet the other three candidates later this week.
Dr. David 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 May 1 in Suites on Main North Theater.
Dr. Amir Mohammadi is vice president for finance, administrative affairs and advancement services at Slippery Rock University. His open forum is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on May 2 in Suites on Main North Theater.
Dr. Dione Somerville is vice president for student affairs at Bloomsburg University. Her open forum is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on May 4 in Suites on Main North Theater.
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