Murray State hosts two finalists for the top job at the University on Monday and Tuesday. The finalists are Dr. Robert (Bob) O. Davies, current president of Eastern Oregon University, and Dr. James (Jim) M. Smith, current president of Northern State University in South Dakota.
A third candidate self-selected out of consideration due to health concerns.
Here is how the candidates have explained how their past experiences in university leadership and future goals qualify them best for MSU president.
Davies was named the ninth president of Eastern State in July, 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.
Throughout his career, Davies has held positions at various institutions throughout the country with different core missions and structures including the University of Nevada, executive director of the Boise State University Alumni Association, associate vice-president for Advancement for State University of New York at Buffalo, and University Relations and executive foundation director at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, all of which he says resulted in his strong foundation for university leadership.
Davies considers his appointment to MSU will be the completion of a geographic career circle leading him from Nevada to Idaho, New York and Pennsylvania.
Davies’ says he was greatly influenced by his history professor father who, over a half-century career, served as an administrator, classroom teacher and nationally-recognized author. It is through him, he says, that he learned and gained respect for the academy and the tradition it holds. He adds that the respect is evidenced by the family cat and dog that the family named “Tenure” and “Promotion” respectively.
Davies says that his “personal and professional experiences developed a deep-seated commitment to serving and leading mid-sized public universities providing an environment emphasizing strong connections between students, faculty and the community.” He says that as an individual trained in the theories and practices of marketing, he has a strong understanding of “brand management.”
As well as leading improvement efforts on campus, he says the next MSU president must serve as a credible advocate for the institution at the federal and state level, which he says he’s experienced during his four years at Eastern Oregon University.
Smith was named the sixteenth President of Northern State University also in July, 2009. Throughout his 25-year career, Smith has been actively involved in academic and campus administration serving as Vice President for Economic Development at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, Dean of BGSU Firelands, Dean of the Education at Indiana University South Bend, as well as serving in administrative capacities in at West Texas A&M University and Butler University.
Prior to university administration, Smith was a public school administrator in Central and Southwestern Ohio. His research and teaching interests have focused on school reform, school reorganization and student testing. He continues to lecture and publish scholarly findings targeted toward overall school improvement and reform.
Smith says his past positions and his current work as a university president led him to understand the power of philanthropy, inclusion and diversity. His wife, Connie Rulh-Smith, is the director of international programs at Northern State. Smith says his world travels have helped him understand the power of inclusion and diversity and helped Northern form a student body represented by twenty-four different countries.
Under Smith’s leadership, Northern State has twice been named one of the most affordable colleges in the country by US News & World Report in June 2013 and has been recognized as one of the top regional colleges in the Midwest by the US News & World Report for six years straight.
Smith says he knows how to navigate the political waters of state capitol politics versus federal politics, and that his accomplishments in public speaking and fundraising are reflections of his enjoyment at sharing the greatness of university life to broad audiences.