New UNH President Says Funding, Inclusion Are Priorities

Apr 9, 2018

Credit UNH

The University of New Hampshire has named James Dean Jr. as the 20th President of the state's flagship university. 

Dean was recently executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he is a professor of organizational behavior.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Dean about his new plans for UNH moving forward.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

So what issues are you looking forward to at UNH? What issues do you see that really need to be addressed you think right off the bat?

So I'm obviously still getting up to speed. I don't start for three months, and so this is all kind of provisional, But you know, the problems or the issues that face UNH are really the issues that face most public research universities in the United States.

A lot of them revolve around funding. Where's the money going to come from? Some combination of state support, tuition, grant dollars, philanthropy and so on. And then on the other side, how can we use the money wisely to support the teaching, and educational and research missions of the university? So money is certainly something that all presidents worry about across the country, and that will be my concern as well.

I've heard a lot and read a lot about diversity as being a challenge at UNH, and diversity and inclusion. And I certainly want to try and make sure that the university is seen as welcoming to all different sorts of people and that everyone sees themselves thriving at the university.

Also I think working with the legislature, and the governor and the business community to try and see what can be done for economic development in New Hampshire. I think increasingly public universities are being called on to try and help with the economy in their states. And we have a lot of extraordinary expertise within the university that I hope can be brought to bear on those kinds of issues as well.

Are you thinking more public private partnerships between the university and business?

[It] could be that. I certainly wouldn't rule that out. [It] would be something I would explore. But also just looking at the various issues that the state faces and that many states face, you know, there's a lot of students who are bright and motivated at the university. Could they be part of teams to look at various kinds of challenges? But basically just making sure that as a public university that that the university is doing its part to try and address the really important challenges that the state faces.

You alluded to some incidents of racial tension at UNH campuses in the past year, and there have been some that are critical saying there's been a lack of response from university administration. Do you have any plans for addressing diversity on campus, specific plans in mind?

Yes of course. I mean I think that diversity and inclusion are really at the heart of what a public university is about. And so if university is not welcoming or doesn't feel welcoming to all groups of people, then it's really not doing its job. You know this isn't a unique problem obviously in New Hampshire. We faced it here at UNC Chapel Hill. But you could go across the country and every university has that.

And in some ways it's because universities are a microcosm of society. And we have a lot of tensions across various races and ethnic groups, and religions, and so on in society and universities simply reflect that. But we also have a lot of goodwill, a lot of dedication to students that I think can be leveraged to try and really help.

New Hampshire is an aging state. We talk a lot about how it's difficult to keep young people here, and many leave the state for college. Is that an issue that you plan to address?

Of course New England in general is a place rich with many, many wonderful colleges and universities. So it's a really competitive environment. But I'd like to make sure that UNH is a place that the best students in New Hampshire consider strongly, and that we can create programs that many of them would want to come and maybe stay.

I know you're visiting all three UNH campuses today and tomorrow. Are you meeting with students and faculty?

Yes there are open forums in all three campuses, and they are open, so far as I understand, to students and faculty. So I think it's going to be a lot of people, and I don't imagine to get in too much depth with anyone. But yes, I do have the opportunity to do that. And so obviously from the very first, I want to make sure that I get immersed in the people of the university.

And it's a broad group. I mean, it includes students, of course, and faculty just as you said. But also staff, and many times staff are the unsung heroes of universities keeping the snow shoveled, or the grass cut, or the classrooms in working order and so on. And I certainly wanted to make sure that they know that I appreciate the work that they've done. But then you have alumni and donors. You have the various elected representatives in the state. So it's is a big, complicated set of constituencies and so I have a lot of work to do to meet people.