Final University of Wyoming presidential candidate Jeremy Haefner made his trip to campus Monday, introducing himself and answering questions from faculty, staff and students.
Haefner spent the last seven years as provost and full math professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. He previously worked at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs for 19 years serving as chair of the department of mathematics, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and associate vice chancellor for research and innovation.
UW’s land grant status, its uniqueness as the only four-year institution in Wyoming and the large variety of programs drew Haefner to apply for the job, as the skills learned during his career would fit well with UW’s mission, he said.
“The most important takeaway I’ve had, as I reflect back on my career, is about impact and how important impact is for me to have in a position I seek,” he said. “Impact meaning, to make sure you’re adding value to the organization that you’re leading — to make a difference.”
Haefner said the areas he means to impact are already showcased at UW.
“Those areas of impact have always been in three key parts,” he said. “It’s all about student success. It’s about academic excellence and building that community. If you do an extraordinary job in all three of those areas, you’re going to do great things and really become a great university. I look at the University of Wyoming, and I see those same kinds of building blocks.”
These building blocks, along with UW’s faculty, staff, students and overall vision could propel the university to new levels of success, Haefner said.
“You need a university that wants to go to new levels,” he said. “You need a university that doesn’t settle for where it’s at, but wants to do more, and I see this in your documentation, in your vision.”
Faculty were offered the chance to question Haefner about how he would handle situations on campus if selected as president.
Staff and faculty salaries and raises has been a hot topic during the candidates’ visits — at least one question on the topic was posed and answered. Haefner said raises were a top priority, but so were support systems for faculty research and teaching.
“There’s no question in my mind is that what makes a university great are the people that work for it and the people that are part of the community,” he said.
Faculty and staff empowerment, providing resources and rewarding success are three key factors when it comes to faculty and staff success and, in result, compensation, Haefner said.
“You need to provide them with the resources to be successful in that job,” he said. “If its faculty, they need excellent laboratories, they need startup packages, they need post-docs to help them be successful. For staff, they need other aspects they need to make them successful as well.”
Success should also be rewarded, Haefner said, as he’s primarily worked with merit-based salary increases.
“You got to reward and celebrate the great work they do, and part of that reward comes through compensation increases to acknowledge that contribution they have made,” he said.
Diversity is another important subject amongst the public — at least one question was mentioned to each candidate. Haefner explained how RIT encourages faculty and leadership diversity and how some strategies could apply to UW.
“You can’t talk about diversity in a vacuum,” he said. “Diversity has to be accompanied by establishing an environment of inclusive excellence, meaning creating an environment where people feel welcomed and part of the community, and you must also accompany it by a commitment to equity — the idea that you want to reward people.”
Faculty diversity is important for any university, Haefner said, explaining how he would stay committed to offering students important experiences they cannot have in a non-diverse environment.
“From an education point of view, our students are going to be out there in the real world,” he said. “They need to be exposed to those very ideas of working in teams that are multicultural — multidiverse. We need to equip them with a skill set in order to succeed in that, and part of that means modeling the same kind of environment they’re going to see out there in the real world.”