Open public interviews of the final six candidates for the presidency of Slippery Rock University concluded on Friday when Dr. David Dauwalder addressed the campus at Weisenfluh Dinning Hall.
Dauwalder, who currently serves as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of New Haven, a private school in Connecticut, stressed a vision of unity and cooperation at SRU, and used his background in both business and education as evidence that he can handle the tough financial situations facing the university.
“Certainly there are challenges faced by Slippery Rock University, as is true with all public institutions—particularly those in Pennsylvania right now living through last year’s 18 percent cut in state support and a proposed 20 percent cut this year,” Dauwalder said. “Those elements speak to the need to find other directions to pull revenue to the institution so the institution can continue to provide the kind of service to students and to the community that it does provide, and to achieve the goals it has identified in its strategic plan.”
Dauwalder, who has spent most of his 23-year administrative career at public universities prior to his six year term at UNH, called the budget cuts one of the toughest priorities he would have to face as president, but believes his background in business would help him manage the aftermath effectively.
“I think the combination of my background in both business and education has been extremely valuable throughout my career,” Dauwalder said. “As I walk into situations I certainly understand the faculty side of issues – the learning side of the enterprise – but I also have some background in the business area as well.”
Typical of any businessman, Dauwalder approaches his decision making with a statistical approach, which is an important element to consider in candidates vying for a position holding much financial reliability.
“I use data – I make data informed decisions,” Dauwalder said. “And I see evidence of that at this institution. It can’t be all decided by formula by any means, however, you do want to make data informed decisions. You want to have a reason for the decisions you make.”
Dauwalder feels he brings more to the table than simply a business background, and heavily emphasized goals to bring both the campus and the community closer together as president during his roughly hour-long interview.
“Really what I try to do is build a team,” Dauwalder said of his leadership style. “Build a good team that works together and that addresses issues together.”
In part of having a close campus, Dauwalder would also hope to have a close relationship with students.
“I think it would be important to have an ‘open door’ policy,” Dauwalder said. “So if students have issues and want to address them, you could hear them. I think it’s important to work through the formal structures in the organization. The Student Government Association is an important group to work with.”
The close connections found in colleges and universities is one of the most important and most satisfying aspects of the job to Dauwalder.
“I like how college campuses work,” Dauwalder said. “I like the interaction on college campuses. I like the interaction of all the different groups in trying to determine the direction the institution goes. I think it’s a little bit different than a business organization which has much more of a hierarchical kind of relationship. I like the comradery that is developed and the teamwork that is developed in that time.”
Feeling that community relations is a vital part to the success of a university, Dauwalder addressed it as one of his top priorities in what would be his first year in office if elected.
“An important element is just getting around to meet people,” Dauwalder said. “To meet people on campus, to understand what the strengths are, where the challenges are on campus, and also to get out and meet people in the community – the connections that this institution has.”
Highlighting his business mindset, Dauwalder connected how having a close campus and community would help financial shortcomings in the future by means of fundraising.
“There’s going to be some challenges over the years building up sort of a fund raising system and a connection to alumni and to friends,” Dauwalder said. “So there’s going to be an effort to get out and meet with the business community and the industry of the area.”
Having spent the past six years at a private university, Dauwalder has knowledge in how to manage a budget not supported by the state. He referenced fundraising at various times throughout his interview, but emphasized that fundraising is a long term project.
In the near future, Dauwalder hopes that connecting the campus will make it more efficient in terms of the budget.
Dauwalder completed his Ph. D. at Arizona State University. He taught business administration at Central Michigan University and California State University of Los Angeles, reaching the level of the acting dean in the School of Business and Economics at the latter school. He served as provost at Central Washington University from 1996 until 2001 before eventually moving to his current role with UNH.