James Applegate’s Ph.D. in Communications was evident when the third of five candidates ascended the stage to deliver the best persuasive speech on why he should be the next president of the University of Idaho. The vigorous speech resonated well throughout the mostly-vacant auditorium.
The enthusiasm in Applegate’s voice showed when he talked about his main goal of making higher education more available to students of color, first generation students, low-income students and adult students. At one of Applegate’s most recent jobs, he pursued this goal as Vice President for Strategic Impact for the Lumina Foundation.
Applegate’s speech emphasized the need for passion, partnership and progress at UI. He demonstrated critical knowledge of university culture by recognizing that UI has excellent collaboration with community colleges, between departments and with the Moscow community.
The wrinkle in Applegate’s presidential bid is his background. For the past five years, he worked for Lumina, a private foundation. Prior to joining Lumina, Applegate served as Senior Fellow and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Kentucky State Higher Education System Office for nine years.
Before that he was Chair of the Communication Department for the University of Kentucky for 15 years, he served as the University Senate Chair and was elected as President of the National Communication Association.
Applegate’s background is impressive in a variety of subjects, but is lacking in the field of leadership in higher education. Applegate has served in leadership positions in a variety of capacities, but has not attained a high leadership position of equivalence to president at a university. Although Applegate holds a background in higher education, he has not worked directly for a university in a number of years.
Applegate’s passion and variety of experience could bring fresh life to the president’s office. Or his lack of recent experience at a university could lead to trouble for UI.