This week it was presidential candidate Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at University of Florida, who took the podium Tuesday and made the case for why he should be the next president of the University of Idaho.
Before answering a single question, Payne addressed one of the key issues so many students, faculty and staff had on their mind. Will the new president stay around long enough to make a difference? And Payne answered with an unequivocal yes, stating that UI will be the last stop of his career.
That sense of commitment was addressed not only by his words but also by his attire, and specifically by the silver, gold and black tie he donned.
Besides the theme of commitment, it was clear that Payne had a thorough understanding of the challenges and responsibilities land grant institutions possess. Having served at five land grant universities throughout his career, Payne said all great universities must change and innovate, not through a top-down model, but through the keen input of faculty and staff.
Implementation of a bottom-up model is necessary for large-scale policy shift — something UI has had difficultly with in recent years. The Class and Compensation debacle and unrealistic enrollment expectations set by former president M. Duane Nellis are two examples of that.
Furthermore, Payne did a respectable job of recognizing and addressing multiple problems and roadblocks UI has encountered, including budget shortfalls, establishing a difference between business and academic management, diversity, student debt and retaining and graduating students. These points were a clear sign Payne had done significant research before arriving in Moscow.
More specific analysis and policy changes could have been included in the presentation, but essentially Payne’s presentation focused on the right things — his own credentials, his leadership style and ideas he plans to bring to the table should he be selected president. That is how UI and the State Board of Education can assess whether he is right for the job.
Payne said he values transparency, inclusiveness of commentators and clear decisions, three values that hold heavy weight with any leadership position.
Yet, no one can really judge from an hour-long forum whether or not Payne will live up to his self-described leadership values. However, with a career of experience and recommendation, we have a clear picture of what we can expect from Payne, or at least what we hope to expect.
He’s someone who understands the challenges that will present themselves, and most importantly, commitment — two crucial components in selecting the university’s next leader.