University of Northern Iowa presidential finalist William Ruud told state regents Thursday he leads a university that is very similar to UNI, facing many of the same budget and enrollment challenges and opportunities.
Ruud, president of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, said his more than 30 years in the higher education would serve the faculty, staff and students of UNI well if he is chosen to be UNI’s 10th president.
“I think I understand the culture and the education and the values system of the folks in the Midwest, and I think the fit would be outstanding,” Ruud, 60, said.
Ruud says he has an unusual background in higher education, having served in a wide variety of roles. He spent four years in the U.S. Army before moving on to faculty and administrative roles at the University of Toledo, Boise State University, California State University-Stanislaus and to a research associate role with the U.S. Army Research Institute.
He just started his seventh year as president of Shippensburg, where enrollment management and dealing with budget challenges have been priorities. Shippensburg is a regional comprehensive university in a 14-member system in Pennsylvania. Shippensburg was the first of those 14 schools to establish an engineering program, Ruud said, and officials there are now discussing breaking that program off into a full engineering college. The university is also nearly $30 million into a $45 million capital campaign, the largest campaign currently underway in that 14-member system, he said. The school also has a 20-sport Division II athletics program.
“I think UNI is very strong,” he said. “But we need to get out and better tell the story so higher education is truly a forefront of policy and success for the state of Iowa.”
Ruud says he’s the same leader at 6 a.m. as he is during a board meeting as he is at a basketball game.
“I guess I would tell you what you see is what you get. Bill Ruud is Bill Ruud,” he said. “I probably will err on the side sometimes of providing probably a little bit too much information to folks, but I think that’s very helpful in getting collaborative decision making.”
Ruud said he works with six faculty and staff unions at Shippensburg, which would be helpful at UNI, where faculty are represented by a union.
“If it’s a two-way street and you follow the rule book, negotiate, talk, raise issues early, often and honestly, I’ve discovered that particular environment is one in which you can get things done,” he said.
Regent David Miles said Ruud was described after his UNI campus visit as enthusiastic and effusive, and he asked Ruud to talk about his leadership style.
Ruud said he is fair, understanding there are times when “five people want to go left and five people want to go right and I’m the 11th vote and I’ve got to make a good decision.”
“Most important to me is we have a good decision-making process, so that people, even though they don’t like the current decisions, are ready and willing to come back for the next decision,” he said.
Ruud has a bachelor’s degree in public administration and hospital administration from the University of North Dakota, and master’s and doctoral degrees in organizational behavior, management and strategy, and organizational communication from the University of Nebraska.
Michael Wartell, chancellor emeritus at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), interviewed with the regents earlier Thursday for the UNI job. The board plans to deliberate in closed session this afternoon, with the selection vote on the new UNI president expected at about 1:45 p.m.
The new president will succeed Ben Allen, who is retiring after serving as UNI president since 2006.