YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – This week 27 First News Community Affairs Coordinator Dee Crawford sits down with Youngstown State University Chairman Mike Peterson to get an update on what’s happening at the university.

Right now, enrolment is top of mind and the search for a new president following the retirement of Jim Tressel. Also, the board of trustees is working to navigate changes in higher education at the state and federal levels.

“YSU is in a great position. We’re excited. Exciting times. We had an amazing president for a number of years and have an opportunity now to take it to the next level, and we’re excited about it,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the search for Tressel’s successor is going well. Helen Lafferty has been appointed as the interim president as the search continues.

First of all, let me say Helen, if you know if you know Helen you love Helen. So that’s the easy one. But the search is going great. We hired a national search firm. The board has a committee of folks that are committed to finding the right person to fill in this position, to take us to that next step,” Peterson said.

The YSU Board of Trustees is made up of members who are appointed for a term of nine years.

“It’s interesting, having never been on the board, having been a student here and watching how the board interacts and the role they play. Now, I understand why YSU has grown the way it’s grown, and it has the reputation it does because the board members are folks that are truly committed to Youngstown State University. It’s not a prestigious position where you get to say you’re on the board and that’s it. It’s work,” Peterson said. “There are a lot of conversations and meetings and discussions that go on year-round. There’s a lot of time put into it. And it’s an honor. It’s an honor because we get to pull into this awesome university and see what it’s become and what it’s going to become.”

Dee Crawford served for many years as a YSU trustee. During her term, the board received the John W. Nason Award from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges for leadership. It’s a national recognition.

One of the biggest tasks before the board right now is finding a new university president. It’s looking for someone who has multiple skills.

“YSU was very blessed to have had President Tressel, and he brought a different set of skills, I believe, that weren’t typically what you were looking for in a presidential role. And we’ve seen the response and the impact of that. So, we’re really looking for someone who, first of all, they’ve got to love Youngstown. They’ve got to love this county. They have to understand the folks here. They have to be good leaders, true leaders, and dare I say, a servant leader, folks that are willing to make decisions. You know, the huddle is not the game. Right? So you’ve got to have someone that’s willing to step up and assess and make great decisions. And they’re good developers of teams because we have a great administration and faculty folks that do a lot of good here. And so you really want to make sure you find someone who can draw all of that out,” Peterson said.

The new president must also be an economic leader who understands the relationship between the university, city, and county.

“That they understand the growth that comes from both sides and are committed to being in a partnership with the community,” Peterson said. “Youngstown and Youngstown State are in a marriage that can never be divorced or separated.”

Looking ahead to the future of the university, Peterson said one of the biggest challenges is enrollment.

“We see just as a whole within the higher education enrollments down. And we see that the fortunate thing for YSU is we saw that early on and we are taking those steps to make sure that we continue to fire up that growth and excitement about folks coming to Youngstown State,” he said.

A plus for YSU is its dormitory situation. Peterson said when he came to YSU there was one dorm, now there are several with dining options, creating a “real college campus.”

“The living arrangements these young folks have, they’re awesome. The eating selections that they have they’re amazing. The extracurricular activity is unbelievable. So, I’m excited about that. And what’s great is when I have people that I played football with and attended YSU with them they come back here and they are flooded, amazed,” Peterson said.

Peterson said YSU is one of the safest campuses in Ohio and is cost-effective.

“When you talk about this university with everything this university has, whether it’s athletes, whether it’s just traditional students, what this university brings to the table compared to what other universities bring to the table and the cost factor. I always like to say that if you come to Youngstown State, you won’t get what you pay for. You’ll get so much more,” Peterson said.