WMU News

New president already mapping out list of priorities

May 7, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- "I have a lot of energy to do the job," Elson S. Floyd told media representatives in a telephone interview following his unanimous selection by the Board of Trustees as Western Michigan University's sixth president April 24.

To those who have heard Floyd speak, that vigor is evident. He told the media he's already developed a short "to-do" list, and was planning to visit the campus soon to talk with senior staff members and trustees.

Floyd, 42, is expected to be on campus for good on Aug. 1. He will succeed Dr. Diether H. Haenicke, who will return to the faculty July 31 after 13 years as president.

"It's my delight to follow someone as popular and as strong and effective as the president has been," said Floyd, who has been executive vice chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1995. "We have much to do and I look forward to getting about the business of doing it!"

His "to-do" list includes: fostering a strong relationship with the state Legislature; planning for the next capital campaign; achieving Research II status in the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classification; reaching out to the community; and improving the quality of life for the entire University.

Floyd said he has not yet prioritized his list. "That really requires a conversation with the total University - students, faculty and staff," he said. "We'll do that together in a joint, collaborative fashion."

At UNC, Floyd said he involved students in the decision-making process by establishing a chancellor's student advisory council. He hopes to set up a similar group at WMU.

In addressing the issue of outreach, Floyd said it would be important for the University to extend itself into both the Kalamazoo community and the state in a number of ways.

He came in a day early for his interview in April to meet with Kalamazoo Mayor Robert Jones and Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Kay Royster.

"It is important for the University to reach out to the community, thus the meeting with the mayor," he said. "Obviously, K-12 instruction is vital for the future not only of Kalamazoo but the state of Michigan. As a consequence, establishing a relationship with the superintendent up front was something I thought was of paramount importance."

Playing a role in economic development in the area also will be a key in WMU's outreach initiatives as well as its efforts to achieve Research II status, he said.

"Economic development is really important," he said. "That's one of the reasons I'm so passionate about moving to Research II status. There will be a lot of private industries that will now be attracted to Kalamazoo because of the Research II status of WMU. So it's going to serve as a huge economic engine for the Kalamazoo area."

Reaching out also will mean working on WMU's image, Floyd said. "It is important to make sure that citizens in the state of Michigan understand how they are benefited by having Western Michigan University," he said. "That will be high on my priority list to talk about those wonderful things that WMU's involved in to improve the quality of the lives of citizens in Michigan."

When asked how long he planned to stay at WMU, Floyd said that he had made a commitment to his 14-year-old son, Kenny, that he would not be uprooted during high school. Floyd and his wife, Carmento, also have a daughter, Jessica, who is 12.

"That does not imply, however, that I'm looking at a four-year window of time," he said. "What I'm saying is that I plan to be there until I get the job done."

Media contact: Ruth Stevens; ruth.stevens@wmich.edu

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