SRU Interim President Philip Way gave the annual state of the university address at common hour on Thursday, informing the SRU community that he hopes to continue the university’s success while also trying out new programs.
Way said he wants to make the university more fun for its employees and that his approach to running the university involves creating an environment conducive to personal growth and hard work.
“I’m very goal-oriented and want people to be goal-oriented themselves, and I want to make sure they achieve their goals,” Way said. “It’s important for a university that is on an upward path.”
During his address, Way said that he wants employees to be creative and enjoy their work while trusting leadership that focuses on employees as an individual and creates a sense of community.
“If people are happy at work then that spills into the organization being successful and SRU will achieve its goals as a result of that,” Way said.
Ben Shaevitz, SRU APSCUF president and physics professor, spoke briefly before Way about SRU, praising it for its strong local identity and family business model.
“I think in those times of less state control, the family business model allowed SRU to develop a culture connected to the local region that valued innovation and progress,” Shaevitz said.
Shaevitz also praised new programs and innovations over the years at the university, which has raised SRU’s stature in the state system. He also spoke negatively of retrenchment and the way the state system conducted it, saying that the public manner of announcing retrenchments affected the recruiting process for universities.
Shaevitz also brought up the lack of a response from the system to the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems’ report, which was released in July.
During his address, Way welcomed 70 new staff and faculty members to the university. He also praised administration members who filled in for his prior provost duties, which he said made more sense than creating another interim position.
The presidential search process was also brought up, with Way saying that it is being kept largely confidential but that open interviews on campus with occur in late September.
“I really encourage you to get involved in those sessions,” Way said. “Please come prepared with questions, look at their credentials online and listen to what they have to say because we want this person to be the kind of person who fits Slippery Rock.”
Way said a theme of his presidency will be continuity and change and that, as interim president, not a lot will be changed in the projected six months.
“My view on this period is to maintain our upward trajectory, maintain that upward path that we’ve been on for the last four of five years in terms of achieving greater and greater things in the academic sphere and in the non-academic areas too,” Way said. “It’s amazing where we’ve come from and where we are now and I’m not going to mess with it. It’s something that’s very special and that we need to hold onto.”
Way said some goals of his include increasing enrollment (with the fall semester enrollment at 8940, up from the previous 8881, although this is only a projection), enhance the campus experience for students and create a caring and inclusive campus.
“There will be a few things that will change and I can’t be specific right now but this a time for experimentation,” Way said. “We can experiment with some new ideas, measure the outcomes and tell the new president whether they worked or not, and whether that’s a good thing for he or she to do when they come.”