What three words best describe your university? The three words that drive all our efforts are pursue, thrive and prosper. “Pursue” means that we help our students develop their purpose and find their “why.” Today’s students want more than simply a paycheck — they want a meaningful career that allows them to impact the world in positive ways. “Thrive” means instilling resiliency, well-being and balance to help students overcome setbacks and live healthy, well-rounded lives. And “prosper” means getting our students the critical skills they need to succeed today and into a fast-changing future. In short, we aim to offer a holistic experience grounded in student success.
What’s your favorite university tradition? Every year, at the beginning of the fall semester, Western holds a much-loved event called the Bronco Bash. It’s part living lab, designed to encourage chance encounters. It’s part carnival, with games and prizes, and hundreds of booths representing student groups, community nonprofits, local businesses and allied groups. Bronco Bash is serious fun. It has an important, strategic purpose, which is to signal to our students from the very beginning that Western is opening a whole new world to them. We remove obstacles to exploration and make it easy to find new interests and build connectivity to others who might share their passion. Interest is the seed of purpose — and having purpose is a critical psychological asset for persistence and the ability to overcome adversity. Each new academic year’s Bronco Bash begins an opportunity to meaningfully pursue purpose, and sets our students on a path to graduate with academic skills and lifelong resilience skills.
What makes your university special? In order to meet the needs of society, we aim to be the most responsive university in the country. The world is changing — and what makes us special is that we’re responsive to these changes. We’ve been breaking down traditional academic silos and putting processes in place to ensure our students are prepared. The challenges we face are increasingly complex and interconnected, requiring new ways of thinking and working across different fields. The nature of work is also undergoing a significant transformation — 85% of jobs in 2030 don’t exist yet, and of the jobs that do exist, fully 1 out of 4 are threatened by automation. This past year introduced a whole new set of challenges and transformations stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s students are only going to face more and more global changes and job disruptions throughout their careers. We recognize that we need to instill in them flexibility, creativity and resilience to help them thrive in a world that’s changing at an incredibly fast rate. That’s what makes us special — we see what’s coming on the horizon, and we’re candid in our self-assessment of how we need to evolve to continue to best serve students. It’s not just students who gain — the employers they will eventually work for and the communities in which they will live also benefit.
What is the best book you’ve read recently? The themes of David Brooks’ “The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life” resonate deeply with how I think about our students — because so many of them are looking for meaningful lives and careers represented by that “second mountain.” In the book, Brooks describes two mountains we can choose to summit as individuals. The first mountain is the mountain of material success: a good job, a nice house, and so on. For some people, that’s enough — but for others, material success is ultimately unsatisfying. They begin looking toward climbing a second mountain, one that represents deeper meaning and service to others. While this is a common journey for people of my generation, so many of today’s students have their sights set on something greater right from the beginning. That’s why Western seeks to help students find their purpose while they are with us. With our support and guidance, they discover a balance for happiness, health, success and strong purpose. At Western, we aim to offer success no matter which mountain students set their sights on.
What is your favorite way to spend your free time? I enjoy boating and playing golf, so it’s been a joy to discover some of Michigan’s beautiful inland lakes and splendid golf courses.
What is the last concert you attended? My wife and I attend student performances at the Western Michigan University School of Music whenever we can. The last concert we saw was a performance by the Gold Company, an award-winning vocal jazz ensemble.