YOUNGSTOWN - The final candidate seeking to become Youngstown State University's next president said she is not afraid to make tough choices. And she's had to make a few.
Southern Oregon University President Mary Cullinan took her turn at the podium Wednesday after former football coach Jim Tressel and University of North Carolina Wilmington Chancellor Gary L. Miller met audiences the previous two days.
Tressel and Miller also are finalists for the presidencies at other universities.
Tribune Chronicle / Bonnie L. Hazen
Southern Oregon University president Mary Cullinan speaks to students and faculty members Tuesday at Youngstown State University. Cullinan is one of three candidates vying for the position of president following Randy Dunn’s departure.
"I'm impressed with the depth of community and the long histories that people have here," Cullinan said, adding that although she is not familiar with the Mahoning Valley, she finds it beautiful.
Cullinan said she was attracted to YSU because it is in a more urban setting and a larger university than SOU. She also said the universities share some similarities, such as the economy being in somewhat of a "transitional phase." She also called it a "time of possibility" for the Youngstown campus.
After former YSU president Randy Dunn's recent departure only seven months after taking the helm, a question that resurfaced Wednesday was what kind of commitment Cullinan is prepared to make.
YSU's Presidential Search Advisory Committee meets at 8 a.m. today to discuss their final selection.
"A president can't really accomplish anything in less than five years. Five to 10 years is a good tenure for a president," she said.
According to the Ashland Daily Tidings in Medford, Ore., 63 percent of the Southern Oregon faculty cast a no-confidence vote in Cullinan last month. She attributed it to the result of difficult decisions in a tough situation, specifically the union negotiations. She said the university didn't have enough money to meet the faculty's needs, and that created a lot of hard feelings.
"But we did resolve the faculty contract and we're in a time of healing," she said.
Other decisions Cullinan has made at SOU involve the consolidation of Academic and Student Affairs and the outsourcing of food service. In her time there, she also helped to create an honors college, which she says has increased out-of-state enrollment.
Cullinan said YSU's next president will need to have a big presence externally as well as internally and that she's ready to put her "boots on the ground" to build relationships and increase scholarship funds and donations.
Cullinan has a Ph.D. and master of arts in English literature, both from the University of Wisconsin, and a bachelor of arts in honors English from the University of Pennsylvania. Her previous roles span from lecturer, director, professor, chair and dean of California State universities, eventually leading her to her current position of president at SOU.
Now that all the candidates have had a chance to tour campus and meet with students, faculty, staff and community leaders, trustees will receive a recommendation from the search committee and enter into negotiations with their selected candidate. The Presidential Search Advisory Committee is meeting 8 a.m. today to begin the process.