Taking part in numerous meetings, interviews and forums, each had or will soon have their interpersonal skills and resistance to a San Diego heat wave put to the test.
Each visit is not a test of the candidates’ credibility though. The three were narrowed down from a larger group of university administrators considering the position. They have proven themselves well-qualified, but whether they will be able to effectively interact with SDSU’s community has yet to be decided.
Praised for his broad, interdisciplinary background, Dr. Elliot Hirshman is the only candidate new to the process of presidential candidacy at a public university. As provost and senior vice president of the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, he holds an elite administrative position at a respected public honors university, and he looks to excel in the university hierarchy.
“Overseeing educational programs, research, fundraising, community engagement — these are areas I have a lot of experience in, and they are things I would bring to the table as president,” Hirshman said.
Being selected as SDSU’s president would be a large jump in the size of the student population he would oversee. UMBC’s student population of 12,888 is dwarfed by SDSU’s 33,790 students.
During the open forum at Montezuma Hall, Hirshman gave a brief, 20-minute speech before opening the floor to questions, just as the two remaining candidates would do in the days to come. In his speech, he spoke frankly about SDSU’s budgetary challenges, clearly distinguishing between short-term and long-term financial success. Focusing largely on the looming budgetary challenges, Hirshman spoke about the importance continuing private fundraising holds and, even in the current economy, continuing to invest in the university’s future.
“The school’s real financial success will be in the long term.” Hirshman said.
His Bachelor’s and master’s degrees are in plant science, his Ph.D. is in plant pathology and he was associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. Then at UNC, he became director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service and finally vice president for research and sponsored programs within the University of North Carolina system.
SDSU’s scientific research community could not have dreamed of a better candidate than Dr. Steven Leath. His speech resonated with the research community and did not include anything pertaining specifically to the liberal arts, fine arts or humanities, although at a large public research university this may prove excusable. Spending his entire career in public universities, Leath was able to clearly outline his opinions about many issues relevant to SDSU.
“I’m a public university guy,” Leath said.
He first spoke about access and affordability, and the importance of giving opportunities to students who can get into the university, but do not have the resources to attend. He did not provide any specific plans for this initiative.
“I’m a low tuition guy,” Leath said.
He spoke briefly about the importance of diversity, and that he was very pleased with the concurrent growth in both minority admission and graduation rate. He then went on to speak in depth about his plans pertaining to research and student success, which would include increased academic standards, something Weber tried to alter by removing the admissions preference to local high school graduates. He also spoke about cutting down the student – professor ratio at SDSU, which is 22-to-1, by increasing the staff.
Leath’s area of expertise and main focus is public research. Every administrative position he has held in a university setting pertained to research, and he looks to expand the work being done in both undergraduate and graduate environments.
President of Chico State University since 2004, Zingg is the only candidate with experience as a university president. He is also the only candidate who has worked in the CSU system, serving as provost and vice president for academic affairs at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo prior to transferring to Chico State University.
Having held an academic administrative position almost consistently since 1978, Zingg has published multiple books and more than 100 articles about higher education, student learning, educational learning, sports history and intercollegiate athletics.
Zingg is visiting campus today. His itinerary includes an open forum at 4:30 p.m. in Montezuma Hall, which is open to all students, faculty and the community.