John Beehler First of Three Presidential Candidates to Visit Campus

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The fundamental balance of student success and public engagement not only foreshadows a progressive future for Jacksonville University, but also acts as a central focus for John Beehler, Ph.D.

Beehler is a candidate for presidency, potentially taking over the position after President Kerry Romesburg retires in summer 2013, following nine years at Jacksonville University.

Beehler visited the campus Tuesday, Oct. 16 to speak with staff, faculty, students and community members about his vision for the university.

“I would like to work with everyone to try to plan the future of the university,” Beehler said. “The ideal thing, I think, for this university would be for it to be a destination campus, a place where everyone wants to go for particular degrees, particular experiences, so we can recruit students from everywhere. I think to do that, we need to get the word out of all the good things that we’re doing here.”

One of Beehler’s accomplishments that he deems his greatest honor was winning the award for Outstanding Professor in the College of Business Administration at the University of Oklahoma because it came from the student body. Beehler said that what he cares most about is each student’s future and what he can do to assist students in accomplishing goals.

“I’ve always been very interested in trying to help the students think about their future, not only when they’re about ready to graduate but have them think about their future the day they arrive on campus,” Beehler said. “When I was a senior, people asked ‘Are you interviewing?’ and I said ‘Well I guess.’ I didn’t really know what to expect in the process when people were interviewing me for a job. I’ve always been worried about students not really thinking about their careers early enough and not really focusing on what I call the prize. When you finish your degree, what’s the prize? The prize is that you are hopefully prepared for a career or prepared for graduate school and also prepared to be a responsible citizen.”

Beehler’s main goal is to develop a strategic plan with every group on campus. He said he believes incorporating everyone’s voice will aid in discovering what is best for the university, as well as finding a brand that will be beneficial.

“I think a brand is not only what we are but what we aspire to be,” Beehler said. “I think the key to developing a brand is to go through a strategic planning process where every group has a voice. We would talk to students, we would talk to staff, we would talk to alumni, we would talk to city leaders, we would talk to external business constituents and constituents in all professions and get their feedback as to exactly what the university should be, what should be its vision, its mission, its key objectives and core values. If any group doesn’t really feel like they have a voice, then they’re not really going to participate and work toward the common goal.”

In 2010, Beehler experienced a great challenge starting a university, the University of Texas at Dallas, from scratch. With only five months to recruit students, write policies, develop a budget and hire a full time staff, Beehler gathered understanding on the workings of an entire campus, a branch away from his normal business and administration focus. His other experiences helped him to observe that retention rates can be solved when the problem is known. Whether the student is leaving for personal, financial or academic reasons will determine how to approach solving the problem.

“I can guarantee you that my wife and I will put our heart and soul into making this university the best university it can be, 24 hours a day,” Beehler said. “That’s what I can promise you. I’ll give everything I’ve got and more.”

Freshman Sarah Pamplin asked Beehler why he first considered the position. Beehler said that his past experiences with metropolitan areas and the key qualities Jacksonville University focuses on are what attracted him to the university.

“I think Dr. Beehler is a good match for our school because he’s very experienced and seems passionate about student success and the university’s relationship with the surrounding community,” Pamplin said.

The visits will continue Wednesday and Friday in the Davis College of Business conference rooms. Jayne Marie Comstock, Ph.D., will visit Wednesday and Tim Cost will visit Friday. Students are encouraged to attend these visits and help the Board of Trustees by providing feedback for the candidates. Student visits will be held at 2:30 p.m. and community visits at 4:30 p.m.

“The president has a great effect on an institution over time and it’s kind of like watching someone vote in an election; it’s a come have your say,” Vice President Derek Hall said. “Everybody’s feedback will be on the table when the selection process happens. We will provide an online survey for everyone to get a chance to give their feedback to the Board of Trustees. It’d be great to have a good number of students who are willing to ask questions and get a feel of who these folks are.”

The Board of Trustees hopes to select the new president at their meeting on Oct. 26, Hall said. The public will know who the new president is on Nov. 1 and the new president will take office in the summer of 2013.

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