Monday marks the first day of work for new Murray State University president Bob Davies, who comes to MSU after five years in the same post at Eastern Oregon University.
Davies began his first day with a campus-wide email that could be described as a purpose statement of sorts for his time as president. He addressed many challenges facing higher education and MSU including political and ideological shifts. Davies says higher education is currently at a watershed moment.
“We are really testing the boundaries between public higher education being a public good and a private good," Davies said. "Public higher education was set up as a public good. The very first set of public universities were actually established before we were a country.”
Davies suggested that a conversation should be ongoing about the public good of higher education, not just the personal private good like increased salary for education and benefits to private industry.
Davies identified other issues including dwindling state funding and a change in student demographics, many of which, he said, are intertwined.
Davies has a full schedule for the coming month and said he'll spend time meeting with people of the region and shore up local student recruitment.
“Murray State is an economic engine for the region,” Davies said. “It is the educational, cultural, civic hub for the region and we need to serve that. As president of this fine, fine university, it is imperative that we make those rounds, that we meet with the constituencies.”
He will also visit areas that generate many out-of-region students in the coming months, including the St. Louis and Chicago metropolitan areas.
Davies is taking MSU's helm after two consecutive years of budget cuts for the university. He said he will work to boost morale and chart a path for the university.
In previous visits, Davies suggested that he wouldn't make any "major" decisions for upwards of six months, and he stands by the "ideal." But he says there are some decisions that need to made sooner than later including filling some interim leadership positions including the Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services which is held by the recently reappointed Jackie Dudley.
"There are some structural changes that I'm contemplating and thinking about that I will take due diligence and due time to move forward on," said Davies.
Davies also suggests that "major decision" needs to be defined.
Davies succeeds Tim Miller, who was initially named MSU’s interim president last summer before becoming the school’s official 12th president at this March’s board of regents meeting.
Davies' wife Cindy and teenage daughter Katie accompanied him to Murray. Davies said his family is taking in the local traditions of Murray as they get acclimated to their new home.