Campus News

Presidential finalist zeros in on ‘critical importance’ of faculty engagement

BY CEARA NAVARRO  —

Dr. James Strong, or “Jim Strong,” who casually introduced himself to students, faculty and staff with a smile and expectedly strong handshake, addressed the William Paterson community last Tuesday as part of his bid to become the next university president.

Strong pinpointed three priorities for helping the University, which are improving student graduation rates, increase revenue and increase enrollment, which he noted dropped by 10 percent.

He proved to have done his research as he spent the majority of his opening speech referring to WPU’s Strategic Plan for 2012-2022 and reciting statistics about transfer and graduation rates.

Strong called attention to the graduation gap between Caucasian students and minority students. He claimed to have brought the gap between students down to zero twice before at his current place of work, California State University at Stanislaus.

As for what makes student success possible, he simply stated “faculty engagement.”

“The most important engagement is between students and faculty,” Strong said. “Students remember their favorite professors.”

Another piece to the perceived puzzle of student success is “alignment,” or organization. According to Strong, an unorganized university greatly affects student retention. In order to accommodate students, campuses should try to centralize student resources in one place to make helping students a “seamless process.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the open forum, an attendee asked about Strong’s experience dealing a previous “toxic” work environment and how he was able to repair the relationship between the university president and faculty. Strong said he worked on creating trust between the two parties through many meetings in order to gain common ground and understanding and using communication techniques to dispel feelings of distrust. Strong explained that, “relationships are critically important.”

WPU alum and grad student Caitlin Lemanowicz was pleasantly surprised by Strong’s answer to her question about how to get commuters involved in communities on campus.

“I like his ideas for engaging student communities online,” Lemanowicz said in reference to Strong’s proposal of optimizing LinkedIn for networking possibilities. “The other candidates didn’t even consider that.”

Strong has been the provost and vice president at CSU for seven years; previously he was the dean at CSU, Dominguez Hills for six years.

Strong is one of the four finalists for the role as university president. The current president, Kathleen Waldron, will retire in June after eight years in the position.

Feature photo by Ceara Navarro, Pioneer-Times staff. Emily Mulqueen contributed to this report.

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