John M. Dunn, incoming interim chancellor, believes it is important to keep students in mind while tackling issues surrounding the Carbondale campus, he said during a press conference Friday.
Increasing enrollment at the university is at top of Dunn’s list – not only to help the university, but the region as a whole. Along with efforts to increase enrollment, retention is a key factor to moving the university forward, Dunn said.
“The money is spent on recruitment of students, but then the real critical question is that freshman to sophomore retention rate and that needs to move to the north,” Dunn said.
There are many sides to the conversation on enrollment but Dunn said the goal is defining who the university is and making sure that students know faculty and administration are behind them.
“It’s easy to complain but the real goal now is to talk about who we are, what we are and what we will be,” Dunn said. “Our goal and our responsibility is to help [students and] do everything we can to be successful.”
Dunn said that goal needs to play out at all levels from the ground up.
“It’s really a major effort to say ‘young person, we want to help you walk across that stage’ and [making] sure you know you have our support,” Dunn said.
Dunn was known at Western Michigan University for his interactions with students around campus.
“Students are what Dunn cares about,” Cody Kimball writes in a 2009 Western Herald editorial. “He attends social events held by student organizations, sporting events – he even walks around campus talking to the students to let them know that he cares.”
Dunn said that his leadership style has always been to remind students that everyone has a story and to not be hesitant to tell that story.
“Never feel like you’re in a position of authority or power that you don’t have time to take a selfie, to interact with a student, to let them know that you are a human being,” Dunn said. “We are all walking on the same earth, we both are trying to do the same thing.”
Dunn said that it’s letting students know that he was where they were at some point and whether someone gave him a nod, or put their arm around him, they were there to support them.
“I think students will be pleased to see that I’m out and about around the campus,” Dunn said. “It’s really letting students know that you’re alive, you’re real, you’re not distant, you’re not buried in Anthony Hall.”
Dunn’s appointment follows the Board of Trustees vote to move forward with the university’s academic restructuring plan started by late chancellor Carlo Montemagno. He said that he will move forward with the restructuring, as voted upon by the board.
“The goal will be to provide assurances to students, first and foremost, faculty and staff,” Dunn said. “We will be very thoughtful on the implementation, make sure voices are heard and there is input.”
SIU Carbondale isn’t alone when it comes to looking at academic restructuring, Dunn said.
“Many universities in the country are doing very similar kinds of things – trying to find ways to increase efficiency, to reduce our overhead and costs and to drive what we can into the support for our students because that’s the bottom line,” Dunn said. “To make sure that these young people have opportunities to stay in school, receive their degree and go on and do really great things.”
Dunn said that he thinks through conversations and discussions, he can help make the plan work and plans to meet to the different constituency groups. He said that he expects to hear thoughts and will entertain questions and thoughts.
“I think we’re put together pretty well as the human being [but] it would be nice if we had bigger ears and our mouths were a little bit smaller,” Dunn said. “We really need to listen to one another and not be too quick to jump into jump in with perspectives without listening to people, hearing them and understanding what the nature of the issue is.”
Kevin Dorsey, interim system president, endorsed Dunn to fill the role earlier this week, leading to yesterday’s board meeting.
“Dr. Dunn will bring to his interim role significant higher education leadership experience as well as knowledge of SIU,” Dorsey said in an email sent on Tuesday. “I am grateful that he has accepted the opportunity to lead our continued progress as we enter our 150th year.”
Dunn will be paid $375,000 a year and receive $22,000 annually for housing expenditures, according to his employment contract. Dunn will also reimburse up to $2,500 on moving expenses, receive a university vehicle and a cell phone allowance in addition to other benefits.
He is on a one year contract until December 31, 2020 or until a permanent chancellor is named – whichever is sooner, according to the employment contract.
When searching for a permanent chancellor, Dunn said that stability is important and one of SIU Carbondale’s shortcomings.
He said he hopes that he can help attract the next permanent chancellor – someone that will be a leader, will have fondness for Carbondale and wants to see things come to fruition.
Dunn began his career at SIU as the provost in 2002, before becoming an interim chancellor after the November 2006 removal of Walter Wendler. Glenn Poshard was president of the SIU system when Dunn served as interim chancellor.
He is a native of Pinckneyville and started his career as a faculty member at the University of Connecticut.
Dunn served as chair of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, assistant dean of the College of Health and Human Performance and associate provost at Oregon State University and as dean of the University of Utah’s College of Health before coming to SIU.
Dunn’s academic work focuses on the long-term health of individuals with disabilities, according to Dorsey’s email. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in special education from Northern Illinois University and a doctoral degree in physical education from Brigham Young University.
“I want to support what I think is a really fine university with a rich history and hopefully we can begin to return to our roots and continue to move forward,” Dunn said.
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