YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Leading a university or college is a long climb, and there isn’t a set way to reach the top.
Thiel College President Dr. Susan Traverso took the traditional path, earning multiple degrees, establishing herself as an academic, and moving into leadership. But she knows that’s not the only way.
“I think higher ed is becoming more open to appointing presidents who might have come up through a business path, a career in law, even a career in student life is another route,” Traverso said.
Or how about a football coach? Youngstown State President Jim Tressel won five national championships before his coaching career ended. He started his academic career at the University of Akron, before becoming YSU president three years ago.
“It’s been a learning curve. Anytime you do something you haven’t done before, there’s a lot of learning,” Tressel said.
Tressel and Traverso have taken different paths, but they excel at the same thing – the relationships. In fact, Traverso will teach a course in the fall.
College presidents focus on today, but another key strength is having the foresight to look past tomorrow. Traverso said strengthening an institution typically takes several years.
“You’re building relationships, establishing programs in one way the first year so they can grow in five years into an even stronger breadth of programs,” Traverso said.
Tressel has spent a lot of time on campus and knows what it takes to be successful. It’s nearly identical to coaching – work with good people and establish strong relationships.
“It’s been very rewarding, it’s been very satisfying to see the success that the university has had and our students have had,” Tressel said. “And like this year’s graduation; I know more of them when I shake their hands than I did three years ago.”
Thiel wants to grow over 1,000 students. YSU is close to going over 13,000.
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