James Applegate, the third of five presidential search finalists to visit the University of Idaho spoke about his ongoing commitment to improving higher education across the country on Tuesday.
About 50 people — mostly faculty and staff — sat in the Administration Building Auditorium as Applegate introduced himself using three key words: passion, partnership and progress.
“If you talk to anybody who’s worked with me at any point in my career, the word passionate will come up,” Applegate said. “So, I’m very passionate about the value of higher education — what it brings and what it can bring to students, to communities, to states, to the nation and for that matter, globally.”
With higher education being his cause, Applegate said he has dedicated his life to expanding educational opportunity for everyone. He focuses particularly on low-income, non-traditional, diverse and first-generation students.
Applegate said his experience with the Lumina Foundation in developing partnerships on the state, national and international level has taught him these relationships are crucial to success, and establishing more of them will benefit UI.
“Even if you have good work going on, as long as you’ve got this group over here working on a topic and this group over here working on a similar goal, if you don’t bring them together in way where they can collaborate collectively,” Applegate said. “You never get impact.”
Impressed with the current collaboration that goes on at UI, Applegate cited the UI research collaborations both in the public and private sectors as an example.
Applegate said progress is also a term that he uses to define himself and his work ethic, and if chosen to be the next UI president, he will bring his determination in making progress with him.
He made a point to talk about the little strides the state of Idaho has made in higher education and how the next president will need to improve the numbers.
“In Idaho, for example, you’ve made modest progress in your education levels. You now have about 37 percent of your population with a high-quality post-secondary credential,” Applegate said. “Even by 2018, and I would hope your current president will still be president, Idaho is going to need to have about 61 percent of its population with some form of two-year, four-year degree.”
Despite the shortcomings, Applegate said he did not choose UI at random.
“One of the main attractions to me of the University of Idaho is your land-grant mission, your campuses all over the state and your extension offices in 42 of the 44 counties,” Applegate said. “That is an enormous infrastructure that can allow you to play a huge role in driving state progress.”
Addressing the presidential turnover problem, Applegate said he would like to be president “for six or seven years” — enough time to make an impact at UI.
“We can do a lot of good work, but is it moving the dial?” Applegate said. “Are we making progress for our students? Are we making progress for the people we’re intended to serve? We always need to be making progress.”
Amber Emery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org