YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - For only the eighth time in its 105 -year history, Youngstown State University officially has a new president.
Several hundred people attended a formal ceremony Friday afternoon on campus as Dr. Randy Dunn was formally installed in the position he has actually held the past four months.
After taking his oath, and donning the special University medallion, Dunn told his audience that he, like many now going to YSU, is the first in his family to attend college while at the same time trying to figure out how to pay for it.
"That very phenomenon still takes place every day with our students and families somewhere in the Valley. And not just in the Valley, but throughout Northeast Ohio and beyond.
Dunn told the audience that in these times of belt tightening and budget cuts, the University needs to refocus on its core mission, to help students reach their goals of higher education.
"While not trying to get too cosmic about it, I'm going to be calling for the re-founding of the university as we think about new models, new ways of doing our work, how we do it, with whom and when, and that becomes the call for the future today," Dunn said.
Because of declining enrollment and budget cuts, Dunn said the University is trying to reduce its spending by some $6.5 million, which already has led to layoffs of some employees and elimination of some programming.
One of those cuts was a decision to cut funding to the Students Motivated by the Arts (SMARTS) program, which brings art into local grade schools. SMARTS also is the centerpiece of the annual Summer Festival of the Arts, which is held on campus over two days in July.
"You're going to see that as one example, probably of others to come in the future about what really is our core business as we go forward and what are appropriate partnerships to undertake how we serve the Valley," Dunn said.
Dunn said he and other university officials had considered not having a formal installation ceremony because of belt-tightening efforts. Friday's ceremony had less pomp and circumstance and was held at Beeghly Center on the campus instead of Stambaugh Auditorium, where it was held in previous years.
"But I do think it's important that we come together for this. It really is this figurative turning of the page of a university and the writing of a chapter," Dunn said.
Part of that "re-founding" of the University is based state requirements tying funding to graduation rates rather than enrollment figures. The Chancellor for the Ohio Board of Regents said colleges and universities need to look more closely at student admissions.
"Maybe they would be better suited to go into the adult literacy program or community college or there might be some other fit for them," Chancellor John Carey said.
Plans were announced this week to change the university’s open enrollment policy. The changes are in line with the revenue stabilization plan Dunn laid out during the interview process and his first state-of-the-university-address in August.
Dunn became president of YSU on July 15. He served as president of the Murray State University in Kentucky for nearly seven years.
Previously, he was State Superintendent of Education for Illinois, professor and department chair of Educational Administration and Higher Education at Southern Illinois University. Dunn’s career began as a reading teacher before taking positions in Illinois schools as principal and superintendent.
Dunn earned several degrees in education and administration from Illinois State University and the University of Illinois.
In his first few months as president, Dunn has had to address declining enrollment at the university which resulted in budget cuts and staff layoffs. He has made enrollment his top priority saying an "aggressive” plan is in place to help the school.
Dunn said in September that the university faces challenges ahead but plans are in place to attract students from all over the country to make YSU a “destination” rather than an open access school.
"The state of the university is challenged today, but it's hopeful for the future," Dunn said. "It's probably no secret we have much work to do going forward to make sure our ship is righted for the stormy waters in the future."
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