Murray State University's incoming 13th president starts his new role of leadership July 14th. Earlier this month, Bob Davies was received with a unanimous vote from the MSU board of regents.
In a phone interview with WKMS’ Kate Lochte, Davies talks about how his discussions with the board during the interview process provided him with insight of the qualities they were looking for in the next president.
“It was clear that they wanted to make sure that this president had the cultural fit, understood the linkages between the university and the work of the board," said Davies. "And moreover understand the ethics of the university, the ethos as I would say, in maintaining the commitment to students and to serve outstanding and excellent academic programs, the ability to manage the business side but also very importantly lead the academic enterprise.
“Their questions and the discussion that ensued really dealt with not being a manager but being a true leader, a leader in the sense of serving others,” Davies said. “Working with the board in very meaningful ways to have them engaged in the life of the university, and also having the university very engaged with the board itself.”
Board relationship issues were at the heart of the dismissal of MSU’s 11th President, Randy Dunn. Davies says maintaining a relationship of transparency with the board and university body is one of the keys to a successful president.
“Transparency was a word that was discussed throughout the entire process with the board and faculty," said Davies. "I think one of the things a university thrives on is not a hierarchic leadership style where the person at the top makes a decision and everyone jumps. It’s the ability to collaborate, to throw out ideas and suggestions and making sure the environment allows for discourse.”
Davies has said that he won't make any major decision during his first six months as MSU president, but rather will use that time to begin a strategic planning process to meet challenges in academia.
“Higher education is at a watershed moment in many ways: the measures for accountability, the measures for affordability, the declining resources available at state and federal levels, the advent of technology, the necessity of being open and accessible to students as an economic driver as a socio-economic equalizers. There are a lot of pressures on higher education.”
Davies has written about his strategies at building excellent relationships with education and government officials during his presidency at EOU, and says he plans to do the same in Kentucky.
“It goes back to knowing who we are as a university, knowing our strengths, and being unabashed about moving forward, and also knowing the challenges that we face and the limitations that we have," said Davies. "Not trying to make our university into something that it is not. Taking that message and building those relationships at a personal level with the general assembly and members of the post-secondary council. Being very forthright, being very open, being well-prepared throughout discussions.
“This is a competitive industry. Western Kentucky University is a fine university and they are after our students and we’re after their students and so we compete at that levels, but at the same time we all need to make sure we are fulfilling the role of ensuring higher public education throughout the Commonwealth.”
Davies will begin his presidency at Murray State July 14th with an annual salary of $300,000.
Davies has been the president of Eastern Oregon University in LaGrande, OR since 2009. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business at the University of Nevada, Reno, and his Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University at Buffalo (SUNY) and his MBA from the University of Oregon.