Coming from Western Pennsylvania roots, the second of three candidates for SRU’s next president, Bruce Murphy, visited campus Wednesday.
Murphy was taken on a tour of campus, met with student leaders and had an open interview with SRU students, faculty, alum and community members. Murphy is the president of Nicholls State Univesity in Thibodaux, Louisiana and has spent more than 25 years in higher education. Murphy’s grandfather and father are from the Pittsburgh region and he has spent time at both Mercyhurst and Point Park University.
During the open forum part of Murphy’s visit, he talked about his experience in leadership roles and his philosophy about higher education. Murphy explained he had leadership experience in student opportunity and leadership, shared governance, advancing appropriate growth, knowing the needs of the region and balancing stewardship and vision. On balancing stewardship and vision, Murphy said his philosophy was that when a new president comes to an already successful institution it is important to not change a lot of things right away.
“Most folks when they come in they have a vision, ‘we want to go here, we want to do this, we want to do that.’ But sometimes you tend to forget that that institution, that university was here before you got here,” Murphy said. “I understand that. I understand that part of this role is to balance that. To find out where have we come from, what are our traditions, what is our culture, where do we fit in, where is our foundation. Then move forward together with that.”
Murphy also outlined his strengths, saying he excels at leading strategic planning processes, looking at the big picture, telling the story of whatever university he is at and finding and nurturing excellence. Telling the story of a university was one of the things Murphy said he enjoyed doing the most.
“I love to tell the story of my institution. If my institution is Slippery Rock, I love telling the story of Slippery Rock,” Murphy said. “I love to tell where it fits in, I like to tell about our successes, I like to champion our faculty and our students. It just excites me.”
To close his presentation to the audience Murphy outlined the main issues he sees in higher education, which he outlined as ensuring a quality education, maintaining enrollment and eliminating financial uncertainty.
From here Murphy fielded questions from audience members. He answered questions on free speech, LGBT issues, the arts programs, and Slippery Rock’s library.
When asked why he chose to apply for SRU president Murphy explained, “If you look at my career, and I think it’s a pattern of going somewhere, having some success and then looking for another opportunity,” Slippery Rock presents, to me, a unique opportunity. It presents a place where you can advance public higher presentation, where you can make the case for public higher education that is already very successful. To me, it was a pretty obvious choice to throw my hat in the ring.”
Murphy said that he had decided to apply for SRU’s president in August and the chancellor of the state system in Louisiana, upon finding out, made him resign as Nicholls State’s president in September. Former SRU faculty member Bob Watson was in the audience and he read an excerpt from an editorial that was published in Nicholls State’s student newspaper, the Nicholls worth, that said Nicholls State’s administration had never informed students of Murphy’s resignation. The full editorial can be read here. Murphy admitted that the administration had erroneously not sent an email detailing his resignation to students at the beginning of the year.
Near the end of the open interview, Murphy was asked that if chosen as SRU’s next president what kind of legacy he would want to leave.
“I would like Slippery Rock not to remember Bruce Murphy,” Murphy said. “I would like Slippery Rock to say ‘we are a better institution, we can do more things, we have made the lives of students richer.’ And somebody around the coffee table would say ‘didn’t Bruce Murphy do some of those things?’ ‘Oh yeah, I think he did.’ It’s not the legacy that I leave, it’s what this institution becomes.”
SRU’s third and final candidate for president, current vice president for finance, administration and advancement services at SRU, Amir Mohammadi, will have his open interview on Sept. 29 in Spotts World Culture Building, room 111 at 3:30 p.m.