Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Second FSU prez candidate: 'You have a lot to brag about'



DIR_eric_barron Eric Barron, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, returned to his alma mater this morning to interview for the president's job. He follows Kevin Bedell of Boston College, who was on campus yesterday.

Barron, formerly a dean at Penn State and at the University of Texas, spoke a lot about the importance of building FSU's endowment through fund raising and of being engaged with students.

Here's a sampling of Barron's exchange with the search committee:

On bringing FSU into the AAU and boosting its national image: "I like to brag, and I like to have good things to brag about. And I think this university has a lot to brag about. You know, you look at the AAU and the breadth of PhD programs those schools have, and this university is there... Bragging is a good thing to do if you have good things to brag about."

On students: "I miss students in my job at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. I was heavily involved in student activities at Penn State. I am approachable. You can say, come up to me in chat...The students also give you quite a barometer of what they think about the institution."

On his relationship with staff: "You know, I hate to be called Dr,. Barron. I prefer to be called Eric. You (staff) are usually the first contact students or outside world have with this university. They enable the faculty and students to be successful. A staff that's engaged, that's happy, that's proud of the place, this is important."

On science vs liberal arts: "I am a scientist, but I can't imagine a world without literature and music and performing arts."

On engaging the Legislature, garnering support: "If the Legislature gives us more, we should do something with it. And we should spend as much time on the other end bragging about how we used it and the outcome we saw. And I think persistence goes a long way. ...I think in two years we'll be climbing out of this, but you know after that I bet it won't be long before we're back down or the Legislature decides something else is more important to fund besides universities. That is why it's so important to build your endowment."

His management style: "What you see is what you get. I don't like to hide things... I tend to be thoughtful in how I approach things, but I tend to be direct. I think nothing is more important than having people who work for you that you can count on. That is key to success. Then you can trust those people to do their job, and you don't have to micromanage. Because the president's job is to set the vision."

On athletics: "The breadth of a Florida State athletic program certainly has appeal. It changes the campus environment because of the excitement. And in my view of fundraising, it is the doorway. It is the thing that brings someone back, and it gives me a chance to tell them about all the other things going on. And if you move toward a national championship, it changes the number of people who apply and it changes the donor profile."

Student academics: "I've thought about a different kind of scholars program...that emphasizes student engagement. Have you been involved in student government? Check. Have you interned with a major corporation? Check. Did you do community service? Check.  And I also think we'll see more distance learning as part of lifelong learning  -- not just because some people are less mobile, but because we are constantlytrying to learn new things."

On fundraising: "Raising money from individuals is not putting your hands in someone's pockets. It is creating a relationship with someone and helping them create a relationship with this university." Barron recalled how he and his wife, "my partner," attended just about evey home football game at Penn State with potential donors. "Going in we thought, well we don't know these people. What will it be like? And it was great."

His fundraising successes: "The most exciting gift I ever raised was a long term investment, and it was for  $1 million for first-generation scholarships. It was from a banker who had worked three jobs to get through school, and it was the first $1 million gift I ever raised." He said he also loved the $25,000 gift he got at Penn State that he thought came through his wooing -- but in fact came after his wife told the donor about how great Penn students are. "Here I thought it was me, but it was her. We are a team."

Next up: The search committee tomorrow interviews the last of the three candidates, Steven Leath, vp for research at the University of North Carolina.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:43am]

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