Tressel addresses budget, athletics and diversity at U of Akron


AKRON, Ohio (WKBN) – Jim Tressel addressed students and faculty at the University of Akron on Thursday as part of the selection process to name a new president of the school.

Tressel, former YSU Penguins coach and current candidate for president of Youngstown State University, is among three candidates being considered for the position at the University of Akron.

Tressel took questions from the audience during the hour-long address, but focused on a message that centered around “oneness” and diversity on campus. Stressing the need for more out-of-state and international students, Tressel said the campus needs to reflect a “diverse world.”

Tressel said the administration fell short to provide what the university needed for a structurally sound budget for fiscal year 2015 and promised, with his guidance, a 2016 budget that would meet the needs of the students and facility. He surprisingly chose an unlikely department where cuts could be made.

“A goal has to be we have to bring down our spending in athletics and raise our revenue,” said Tressel. “We need to spend a little less and get a little more revenue. I think it is going to be an interesting time in our history. I don’t know where athletics is going. I think we have to focus on getting better at what we do.”

Tressel admitted that he has spent many hours in meetings at universities where he has spent the last 37 years in various positions, mostly athletics, but not in ones that dealt with curriculum or specific academics. With that in mind, he said one of his most important decisions will be selecting a provost.

“The provost in my mind may be one of the most important decisions a president who doesn’t have as much academic experience would have to make,” said Tressel. “In my case, the provost position is crucial. I would look for someone who is selfless. That is the number one characteristic.”

Tressel is the Executive Vice President for Student Success at the University of Akron. In his application for the YSU presidential position, he said, “While admittedly this is a very busy time in my professional life, it seems only right to see if the time and fit is right for the Tressels at Youngstown State.”

The Youngstown State University Presidential Search Advisory Committee on Monday released the names of the final three candidates to succeed Dr. Randy Dunn as university president: Mary Cullinan, Gary Miller and Tressel.

Tressel also submitted application materials to the University of Akron.

YSU has approximately 13,300 students and has 115 undergraduate programs, 44 master’s degree programs and three doctorate programs. By comparison, the University of Akron has 27,000 students, with more than 300 undergraduate and graduate programs.

YSU’s last president, Dr. Randy Dunn, was set to make $375,000 this academic year. The president at the University of Akron was set to make $500,000 this year.

At Akron, the top three academic offerings are health professions, engineering and business. At YSU, the top three majors are criminal justice, nursing and early childhood education.

The three finalists will visit the YSU campus the week of May 5 for interviews and open forums. You can find a schedule for those visits here. Tressel will interview on Monday, May 5. An open forum is set for 2:00 to 3:00 PM in the Board of Trustees meeting room in Tod Hall. Miller and Cullinan will follow on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

Youngstown State has been searching for a new leader ever since Southern Illinois University announced Dr. Dunn as its new president on Feb. 17.

The YSU Board of Trustees will meet on May 8 to choose the final candidate.

They will work out a contract and could possibly announce the next president by mid to late May.

Cullinan is the 11th president of Southern Oregon University, where she has been for eight years. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania and later earned her Master of Arts degree and Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Wisconsin.

She knows there are challenges along the way.

“I would be delighted to be named president. Whoever is named is going to be facing issues and challenges. No president is ever appointed with complete unwavering support from everyone,” Cullinan said in a telephone interview.

Miller is the chancellor at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Neither she nor Tressel returned a call seeking comment.

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