Catching up with Pres. Albrecht

This week as Dr. Stan L. Albrecht began his sixth year as the 15th President of Utah State University, he took some time to talk with Craig Hislop. Here is that conversation: Q: Congratulations on five full years on the job. A: Thank you, but it does make me feel a little older now that you mention it. Q: You came into this job in an unusual way when many of USU’s constituency’s came together to persuade the Board of Regents to forgo a national search and install you as president. Have you continued to sense that acclimation after five years? A: First of all, it was enormously gratifying to feel that kind of support from our students, faculty and administrators and board of trustees and others at the beginning. But it also set a pretty high standard, in terms of expectations. I’ve been pleased with these five years and what has happened. I think the kinds of things we have seen with continued student support and faculty support for continuing to build the excellence that is Utah State University has been pleasing to me and, I hope, pleasing to everyone else out there. Q: What has been the most unexpected aspect of leading a school of this size? A: There have not been a lot of surprises and I think that’s primarily because I did have the opportunity to serve as an academic vice president at another institution. I’ve had two terms as dean at two different institutions. I had the four years here with Kermit Hall as his provost and executive vice president. So, I was sort of close enough to what presidents do that there probably weren’t a lot of surprises. I have lots of students who come in and say ‘Gee, I think I would like to be a university president, how do I prepare for that?’ My answer typically is that I’m not sure one really can prepare for it and I think there are lots of serendipitous things that happen along the way. It’s been a good ride. I’ve had the great fortune of learning at the feet of some outstanding leaders: Rex Lee, Kermit Hall…the list goes on and on. Q: It seems USU, in fundraising, has negotiated uncertain financial times quite well. What has been the key? A: That’s been one of the highlights. As you know, Utah State University had never done a comprehensive campaign. There had been lots of stops and starts and lots of planning but no one ever pulled the trigger. Moving into this role, I knew that was one of the things we needed to do. We set the initial $200 million goal, then passed it, then doubled that goal in a difficult economy. We’re now sitting at about 72 percent of that goal, about $288 million. We’re excited about how well that has gone and how many wonderful friends have stepped up and helped make it happen. Q: There have been some notable donations in recent years. What’s led to that happening? A: I think, again, it’s building relationships. I think it’s finding individuals who have the capacity to give, have the interest in giving and making sure that what we’re doing is a match for the kinds of things they would like to do; where they would like to make a difference. A John Huntsman, for instance, looking at the opportunity at Utah State to build one of the country’s truly outstanding undergraduate business programs. He’s been a very significant part of that. The Emma Eccles Jones Foundation and their longtime interest in our College of Education and Human Services. We’re one of the best in the country, in part because of their commitments and generosity. Q: This time of the year you have a focus on the 45-day legislative session and their decisions on future funding, in face of cuts to USU’s budgets recently. What might happen next? A: Everyone is being impacted by the economy, of course. We recognize the broad, difficult impacts associated with this downturn. We’ve had a couple of challenging years and, certainly, we’re not through that. But, looking at the Governor’s proposed budget there are some ‘hold harmless’ aspects of it that would be critical to us in terms of buying us another year or two years, hoping over that period of time the economy does begin to get better. We have challenges ahead, but at this point I’m relatively optimistic. Q: You are creating a new college of the arts. Was that on your radar screen five years ago when you laid out your goals? A: Not specifically. We had thought about a Caine School of the Arts. We’re now moving that up a level and talking about a Caine College of the Arts, now approved by our trustees and the board of regents. It provides an outstanding opportunity for us to continue to enhance the excellence that we already experience on that side of the university. It will give us additional visibility and additional development opportunities. We have some outstanding new leadership there. Craig Jessop’s work is impacting not only Utah State, but also the entire community and region. We’re excited about this. Q: Finally, President, how many more five-year terms do you see in your future? A: (laughing) It’s an interesting question. I have no contract. I am an at-will employee. I serve as long as the regents want me to serve and as long as we feel we’re doing a good job. We still have a few boats to build and I hope we’ll have an opportunity to build them.

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