This archived article was written by: Eagle staff
After three weeks on the job, Board of Regents Commissioner Bill Sederberg told the faculty and staff that the regents have an intense interest in the College of Eastern Utah’s success. The former Utah Valley University and Ferris State University president met with the CEU personnel from 10-11:30 a.m. and with a group of students at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to better get to know each college in the Utah System of Higher Education.
He admitted being busy but this was a phenomenal opportunity to get acquainted with each college as he planned to travel to the nine public institutions of higher education in Utah.
A native of Michigan, he served as a full-time legislator and as a faculty member in the political science department at Michigan State University before moving to Utah. When he took this job in August, he believed three things stood out in his mind as his goals for higher education.
First was to move this state from micro management to more leadership and try to advocate for higher education as opposed to simply being gatekeepers.
Second is to “look at institutions. How do we create healthy institutions? We know that the state is only as strong as our institutions.”
Third category is if “we have strong institutions and leadership, the issue is networking the institutions together in partnerships and collaborative efforts that can make good things happen for the people in Utah.”
He asked everyone in attendance to introduce themselves and tell him one observation he should take home with him about CEU. Many responded with their love for CEU its students and how many care for its well being.
Darla Cloward told him that CEU had the best students in the state. He said while he was at UVU, he does not remember anyone telling him that about their students.
One person referenced the best part about the college was that it was like a family. Sederberg always resisted that concept, making a reference to a 15-year-old book by Scott Peck titled “Restoring Civility” about creating civility within organizations.
One of Peck’s points is that organizations should not treat its employees like family because to create a civil organization, you occasionally have to fire people and sever that relationship. And families, you cannot sever those ties. To create healthy organizations, for the good of the group, you sometimes have to make very difficult decisions.
This is part of the issue at CEU, and deals with our need of a little more transparency and honest communication with this discussion about Utah State. It’s very clear there are all sorts of misunderstandings and miscommunication about that. That is part of civil organization.
Dean of Student Life DEl Beatty told the commissioner that he needed to realize that one size does not fit all institutions. “I did not fully understand this concept until I worked here.”
Business faculty instructor David Cassidy told him the best part about CEU for students can be defined in one word: opportunity.
History instructor Susan Neel told him “we are all terribly proud of what we do and we are all extremely dedicated to the kind of education that we prepare here at CEU. I think one of the things that has become clear if this merger process has gone through is that how we perceive ourselves is not always how the rest of the world perceives us here at CEU. If we are trying to better communicate the great things we do here, one thing that would help us is to know what position you see CEU having in the higher education world.”
He was hopeful that this subject would come out. He says this was to be put in the observation category with an asterisk attached so he could reserve the right to change his mind as he learns more as the job goes along.
Sederberg thinks there are challenges for all institutions, and that they are living organisms in many ways.
“Organizations are very similar to organisms in that we all need a future, we need a sense of motion, we need a sense of direction, we need a sense of dynamism and energy. The thinking of the state over the last five years that I have been aware of, thought the challenge of CEU is to get a plan. You need a future, energy, movement,” he said.
In his time in Utah, he knows that CEU is suffering and faced with a very tough future. “The issue is that the image of CEU really had difficult times and it was not clear what the future held for CEU. If you look at demographics trends you see the population is shrinking and number of high school kids is going down. The competition is going to be tougher for state money, etc. What is the future of CEU?
“Are there senior organizations that could really assist the institution? That has been the historic hindsight. In the last couple of years, I think there has been a turnaround in thinking about that. The fiscal part has been put into order. Before, the image of state about CEU was the school had serious fiscal problems before this. There has also been some enrollment issues.
“The issue still remains can anyone articulate a very clear healthy CEU will look like in 10 years? And that’s President King’s job and the institution’s job to articulate what that vision will be.”
Sederberg’s meeting with the students later that afternoon went in a similar direction. After having a few students introduce themselves, he inquired about their high school experiences and the significant aspects of CEU.
Brandt Peacock stated, “I was looking around at some different colleges. I was going to go to Snow, and the [CEU] recruiter got a hold of me … and showed me what they had to offer me. They could offer me more than Snow could, and I think that the kids here can tell you if you polled them that they’re here because they’ve been offered a good deal and they feel really good about the deal they’ve been offered and they felt like they’ve been dealt fairly.
“We know the president, I know the dean of students, I know the recruiter. I felt like CEU wanted me. I think there are a lot of universities in the state that don’t care about you but I really felt like CEU wanted me.”
Sederberg also discussed some of his plans for education in the state, “One of the things that in the state of Utah that I want to champion is raising the standards of high school. We have far too many students that have struggled, particularly in mathematics, and we need to get more competitive in our standards … I think the average student at UVU had to take Math 1050 about 3 times. That’s just incredible.
“We’re third highest in the country with kids graduating from high school. We’re third lowest in the country of kids going on to college. I think that’s in part due to lack of preparation.”
The meeting ended with a comment from Kelton Wells, “One thing that I want you to be able to realize is that I applied to many schools throughout the state and I had really good scholarships to all of them and I chose CEU because of the type of place it is. I just want to make it known that people choose to come here because of what it has to offer, because it’s CEU.”